The Project Gutenberg EBook of Arabic Authors, by F. F. Arbuthnot
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Title: Arabic Authors
A Manual of Arabian History and Literature
Author: F. F. Arbuthnot
Release Date: November 24, 2006 [EBook #19914]
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ARABIAN HISTORY AND LITERATURE.
F.F. ARBUTHNOT, M.R.A.S.,
"EARLY IDEAS" AND "PERSIAN PORTRAITS."
The following pages contain nothing new and nothing original, but they
do contain a good deal of information gathered from various sources,
and brought together under one cover. The book itself may be useful,
not, perhaps, to the Professor or to the Orientalist, but to the
general reader, and to the student commencing the study of Arabic. To
the latter it will give some idea of the vast field of Arabian
literature that lies before him, and prepare him, perhaps, for working
out a really interesting work upon the subject. Such still remains to
be written in the English language, and it is to be hoped that it will
be done some day thoroughly and well.
It is gratifying to think that the study of Oriental languages and
literature is progressing in Europe generally, if not in England
particularly. The last Oriental Congress, held at Stockholm and
Christiania the beginning of September, 1889, brought together a
goodly number of Oriental scholars. There were twenty-eight
nationalities represented altogether, and the many papers prepared and
read, or taken as read preparatory to their being printed, showed that
matters connected with Oriental studies in all their branches excite
England, too, has been lately making some efforts which will be, it is
sincerely hoped, crowned with success. The lectures on modern Oriental
languages lately established by the Imperial Institute of the United
Kingdom, the Colonies, and India, in union with University College and
King's College, London, is full of promise of bringing forth good
fruit hereafter. So much is to be learnt from Oriental literature in
various ways that it is to be hoped the day may yet come when the
study of one or more Oriental languages will be taken up as a pastime
to fill the leisure hours of a future generation thirsting after
In addition to the above, a movement is also being made to attempt to
revive the old Oriental Translation Fund. It was originally started in
A.D. 1828, and did good work for fifty years, publishing translations
(see Appendix) from fifteen different Oriental languages, and then
collapsing from apathy, neglect, and want of funds. Unless well
supported, both by donations and annual subscriptions, it is useless to
attempt a fresh start. To succeed thoroughly it must be regarded as a
national institution, and sufficiently well-off to be able to afford to
bring out Texts and Indexes of
[Transcriber's note: Missing page in the source document.]
-cially An-Nadim's 'Fihrist,' a most valuable book of reference, ought
to be done into English without further delay. Private individuals can
hardly undertake the business, but a well-organized and permanent
Oriental Translation Fund, assisted by the English and Indian
Governments, could and would render extraordinary services in the
publication of texts, translations, and indexes of Oriental literature
For assistance in the preparation of this present volume my thanks are
due to the many authors whose works have been freely used and quoted,
and also to Mr. E. Rehatsek, of Bombay, whose knowledge of the Arabic
language and of Arabic literature is well known to all Oriental
18, Park Lane, W.
Arabia: its boundaries, divisions of districts, revenues, area,
population, and history.--Tribe of Koraish.--The Kaabah at
Mecca.--Muhammad.--His immediate successors: Abu Bakr, Omar, Othman,
Ali.--The Omaiyides.--Fate of Hasan and Hussain, sons of Ali--Sunnis
and Shiahs.--Overthrow of the Omaiyides by the Abbasides.--The
Omaiyides in Spain; their conquests and government.--The Moors, and
their final expulsion.--To what extent Europe is indebted to the
Spanish Arabs.--Their literature and architecture.--The Abbaside Khalifs
at Baghdad.--Persia, Egypt, Syria, Palestine, and Arabia become detached
from their government in the course of time.--Fall of Baghdad itself
in A.D. 1258.--Dealings of the Turks with Arabia.--The Wahhabi reform
movement.--Expeditions of the Turks and Egyptians to suppress
it.--Various defeats and successes.--Present form of government in
Arabia.--Its future prospects.--List of the Omaiyide Khalifs, preceded
by Muhammad and his four immediate successors.--List of the Abbaside
Khalifs.--List of the Arab rulers in Spain.
About the Arabic and Chinese languages.--The permanent character of
the former attributed to the Koran.--Division of Arab literature into
three periods: I. The time before Muhammad.--The sage Lokman; the
description of three Lokmans; Arab poetry before the Koran; the seven
suspended poems, known as the Mua'llakat, at Mecca; notions of the
Arabs about poetry; their Kasidas; description of the Kasidas of
Amriolkais, Antara, Labid, Tarafa, Amru, Harath, and Zoheir; the poets
Nabiga, Al-Kama, and Al-Aasha. II. The period from the time of
Muhammad to the fall of the Abbasides.--Muhammad considered as a poet;
the poets who were hostile to him; his panegyrist Kab bin Zoheir;
account of him and his 'Poem of the Mantle,' and the results;
Al-Busiri's 'Poem of the Mantle;' names of poets favourable and hostile
to Muhammad; the seven jurisconsults; the four imams; the six fathers
of tradition; the early traditionists; the companions; the alchemists;
the astronomers; the grammarians; the geographers and travellers; the
historians; the tabulators and biographers; the writers about natural
history; the philologists; the philosophers; the physicians; the
poets; the collectors and editors of poems; the essayist Al-Hariri;
many translators; special notice of Ibn Al-Mukaffa; support given to
learning and literature by certain of the Omaiyide, Abbaside, and
Spanish Arab Khalifs; description of Baghdad; reign of
Harun-ar-Rashid; the Barmekides; the Khalif Razi-billah; Hakim II. at
Cordova; his education; his accession to the throne; his collection of
books; his library, and its catalogue; places of learning in the East at
this time. III. Third period, from the fall of Baghdad to the present
time.--Certain historians; Ibn Malik, the grammarian; Ibn Batuta, the
traveller; Abul Feda, Ibn Khaldun, Ibn Kesir, Ibn Hajar, Ibn
Arabshah--all historians; Firuzabadi, Taki-uddin of Fez, Al-Makrisi,
Sayuti, Ibn Kamal Pasha, Abu Sa'ud the mufti, Ibrahim of Aleppo,
Birgeli, Abul Khair; celebrated caligraphers, past and present, Haji
Khalfa, Muhammad al Amin of Damascus, Makkari. Decline of Arabic
literature: its present form. About the printing-presses of Arabic
works at various places.
A complete summary of the details of his life, from his birth to his
death.--Remarks upon him as a reformer, preacher, and apostle.--The
Hanyfs.--Muhammad's early idea of establishing one religion for the
Jews, Christians, and Arabs.--His long struggle with the Koraish.--His
failure at Mecca.--His success at Madinah.--Adapts his views to the
manners and customs of the Arabs only.--The reason of his many
marriages.--His love of women.--About the Koran.--Not collected and
arranged until after his death.--Comparison of the Koran with the Old
and New Testaments.--Superiority of our Bible.--Description of it by
'Il Secolo.'--Rev. Mr. Badger's description of the Koran.--Written in
the purest Arabic, and defies competition.--Muhammad and Moses, Jesus
and Buddha.--Remarks about Buddhism and Christianity.--Moses and
Muhammad the founders of two nationalities.--Abraham the father of the
Jewish, Christian, and Muhammadan religions.--Renan's description of
the gods of the Jews.--Joseph.--The Twelve Tribes.--Appearance of
Moses as a liberator and organizer.--The reasons of his wanderings in
the desert.--What the Jews owed to Moses, and the Arabs to
Muhammad.--The latter as a military leader.--Resemblance of the warlike
expeditions of the Jews and of the Arabs.--Similar proceedings in the
Soudan at the present time.--Account of the dogmas and precepts of
Islam as embodied in the Koran.--Other points connected with the
institutions of Islam.--Faith and prayer always insisted
upon.--Democratic character of the Muhammadan religion, excellent in
theory, but doubtful in practice.--Muhammad's last address at Mina,
telling the Muslims that they were one brotherhood.--His final remarks.
TALES AND STORIES.
The Kalilah wa Dimnah.--'Early Ideas.'--'Persian Portraits,'--Origin
of the 'Arabian Nights.'--The Hazar Afsaneh, or Thousand Stories. Date
of the 'Nights.'--Its fables and apologues the oldest part of the
work.--Then certain stories--The latest tales.--Galland's
edition.--His biography.--His successors, sixteen in number, ending with
Payne and Burton.--The complete translations of these two last-named, in
thirteen and sixteen volumes respectively.--Brief analysis of Payne's
first nine, and of Burton's first ten volumes.--Short summary of
twelve stories; viz.: The tale of Aziz and Azizah; the tale of Kamar
Al-Zaman and the Lady Budur; Ala Aldin Abu Al-Shamat; Ali the Persian
and the Kurd sharper; the man of Al-Yaman and his six slave-girls; Abu
Al-Husn and his slave-girl Tawaddud; the rogueries of Dalilah the
Crafty and her daughter Zeynab the Trickstress; the adventures of
Quicksilver Ali of Cairo; Hasan of Busra and the king's daughter of
the Jinn; Ali Nur Al-din and Miriam the girdle-girl; Kamar Al-Zaman
and the jeweller's wife; Ma'aruf the cobbler and his wife
Fatimah.--Remarks on Payne's three extra volumes, entitled 'Tales from
the Arabic,' and on Burton's two first supplemental volumes.--Allusion
to Burton's third supplemental and to Payne's thirteenth
volume.--Burton's fourth, fifth, and sixth supplemental volumes.
--Summing-up of the number of stories contained in the above two
editions; from what manuscripts they were translated, and some final
remarks.--The Katha Sarit Sagara, a sort of Hindoo 'Arabian Nights'.
--Comparison of the two works.--Brief description of the Katha and its
contents.--Gunadhya and Somadeva.--Final remarks on the stories found
in the Katha.--Antar, a Bedouin romance.--Its partial translation.--Its
supposed author.--Brief description of the work, with some remarks upon
it.--Both the 'Arabian Nights' and Antar rather long.--The press in
England to-day.--Numerous writers of novels and story-books.--These
take the place of the 'Nights,' and satisfy the public, always in
search of something new, even if not true; something original, even if
not trustworthy.--Final remarks.
ANECDOTES AND ANA.
In Persian literature the Gulistan, Negaristan, and Beharistan contain
many anecdotes.--In Arabic literature there are works of the same
kind.--'The Naphut-ul-Yaman,' or Breath of Yaman.--Six stories
translated from it.--The Merzuban namah, with newly translated
extracts from it.--Remarks on this work.--The Al-Mustatraf, or the
Gleaner or the Collector.--Two stories from it.--Two anecdotes taken
from the Sehr-ul-oyoon, or Magic of the Eyes.--A philosophic
discourse, translated from the Siraj-ul-Muluk, or Lamp of Kings.--The
Ilam en Nas, or Warnings for Men.--Eighteen stories from Ibn
Khallikan's Biographical Dictionary.--Seven anecdotes from various
sources.--Verses from the Arabic about the places where certain Arabs
wished to be buried.--Translation of the verses upon Alfred de
Musset's tomb in Paris.
The Arabia of to-day is bounded on the west by the Red Sea and Gulf of
Suez; on the south by the Gulf of Aden and the Arabian Sea; on the
east by the Gulf of Oman and the Persian Gulf; and on the north by a
portion of Syria. This last boundary would, however, be more clearly
defined by drawing a line from Suez straight across to the western
head of the Persian Gulf.
By the Greeks and Romans this country was divided into Arabia Petraea,
Arabia Deserta, and Arabia Felix, or the Stony, the Desert, and the
Happy. The Arabs themselves call it 'The Land of the Arabs,' while
modern geographers give the Sinaitic peninsula as the first geographic
district; the Hijaz, including the Haram, or sacred territory of
Mecca, as the second; and Yaman, with the Tehamah, as the third. To
these may be added the provinces of Hadramant and Mahrah, and of Oman
and Hasa, to the south and east respectively, with Nejd, or Central
Arabia, as the central plateau, and some large deserts scattered in
different parts of the peninsula.
Of the revenues of Arabia it is almost impossible to form anything
like a correct estimate. The area of the country covers about
1,200,000 square miles, and the population is said to be from five to
six millions, of whom one-fifth consist of Ahl Bedoo, or dwellers in
the open land, otherwise known as Bedouins; and four-fifths of
settled Arabs, called Ahl Hadr, or dwellers in fixed localities.
The history of Arabia may be divided into three periods:
1st. The prehistoric period, full of tales of heroes, and giants, and
2nd. The period which preceded the era of Muhammad.
3rd. That which followed it.
The first period is mythical to a certain extent; at all events,
nothing can be stated positively about it. The second period is
distinguished as one of local monarchies and federal governments in a
rough and rude form; while the third commences with theocratic
centralization, dissolving finally into general anarchy.
Of the many tribes in Arabia, the most celebrated is the family of the
Koraish, still regarded as the noblest of the Arabs, partly because,
at the beginning of the fifth century A.D., their chiefs had rendered
themselves the masters and acknowledged guardians of the sacred Kaabah
at Mecca, and partly because of their connection with the Prophet. The
Kaabah, La Maison Carree, or square temple, a shrine of unknown
antiquity, was situated within the precincts of the town of Mecca, and
to it, long before Muhammad's time, the Arabs had brought yearly
offerings, and made devout pilgrimages. The tribe of Koraish, having
once obtained the keys of the consecrated building, had held them
against all comers till Muhammad's conquest of Mecca in A.D. 630, when
he handed over the key to Othman bin Talha, the former custodian, to
be kept by him and his posterity as an hereditary and perpetual
office, and he further confirmed his uncle Abbas in the office of
giving drink to the pilgrims.
Before entering into a somewhat lengthy description of Arabian
literature, it is necessary to give a short and rapid sketch of
Arabian history, beginning from the time of Muhammad, as his Koran was
the foundation of the literary edifice. All Arab authors have looked
upon that work as the height of eloquent diction, and have regarded it
as the model standard to be followed in all their productions.
Leaving, then, the two first periods of Arabian history, viz., the
prehistoric, and the pre-Muhammadan, without any particular notice,
the third period will be sketched as briefly as possible, and will be
found excessively interesting, containing as it does the rise,
grandeur, and decline of the Arabs as a nation.
Muhammad, on his death in June, A.D. 632, left the entire Arab
peninsula, with two or three exceptions, under one sceptre and one
creed. He was succeeded by Abu Bakr (the father of Ayesha, the
favourite wife of the prophet), known as the Companion of the Cave,
with the title of Khalifah, or successor. His reign only lasted two
years, but during that period the various insurrections that broke out
in Arabia in consequence of the death of the Prophet were promptly put
down, after severe fighting, in various parts of the peninsula, and
the whole country was subjugated. Foreign expeditions beyond the
borders were also planned and started.
Abu Bakr, dying in August, A.D. 634, was succeeded by Umar, or Omar,
the conqueror of Syria, Persia, and Egypt by means of his generals
Khalid bin Walid (the best, perhaps, that Islam produced), Abu Obaida,
Mothanna, Sad bin Malik, Amr bin al-Aasi, and others. Omar himself was
an early convert of A.D. 615, and a sudden conversion like our Paul;
but one made his converts by fanaticism and the sword, the other by
preaching and the pen. After a glorious and victorious reign of ten
years Omar was assassinated by a Persian slave in November, A.D. 644,
and was followed as Khalif by Othman, son of Affan, of the noble
family of Abd-esh-Shems, who also assumed the title 'Amir al-Momenin,
or Commander of the Faithful, which had been first adopted by his
predecessor Omar. Othman ruled for twelve years, when he was murdered
in A.D. 656, some say at the instigation of Ali, nephew of Muhammad,
and husband of his only daughter Fatima. Anyhow, Ali succeeded Othman
as Khalif, but was defeated by Moawia, Governor of Syria, and
assassinated in A.D. 660.
Moawia bin Abu Sofyan then established the Benou Umayya dynasty,
called by Europeans the Omaiyides, or Ommiades, from the name of
Umayya, the father of the race. This dynasty reigned for nearly ninety
years, and numbered fourteen successive princes, with their capital at
During the reign of Yazid I., the second prince (A.D. 679-683),
Hussain, the younger son of Ali the Khalif, came to an untimely end.
His elder brother, Hasan, a man of quiet disposition, had been
previously murdered by one of his wives, at the instigation, it is
said, of Yazid before he came to the throne. This happened in A.D.
669. Later on Hussain, with his followers, rose in rebellion, and was
killed on the plain of Kerbela, A.D. 680. The descendants, however, of
this faction continued the disturbances which eventually brought about
the great Muhammadan schism, and the splitting up of the religion into
two sects, known to this day as the Sunnis and Shias. The adherents of
the legitimate Khalifate, and of the orthodox doctrine, assumed the
name of Sunnites, or Traditionists. These acknowledge the first four
Khalifs (the rightly minded, or rightly directed, as they are called)
to have been legitimate successors of Muhammad, while the sectaries of
Ali are known as the Shiites, or Separatists. These last regard Ali as
the first rightful Imam, for they prefer this title (found in Sura
ii., verse 118, of the Koran) to that of Khalif. The Turks and Arabs
are Sunnis: the Persians, and most of the Muhammadans of India, Shias.
This division into two sects, who hate each other cordially, has done
more to weaken the power of the Muhammadan religion as a power than
anything else. The Shias to this day execrate the memory of Yazid as
the murderer of their hero Hussain, whom they have ever regarded as a
martyr, and given full vent to their feelings on the subject in their
'Passion Play,' translated by Sir Lewis Pelly, and described by Mr.
Benjamin in his 'Persia and the Persians.'
Other insurrections against the reigning Omaiyide Khalifs were also
put down, portions of Asia, Africa and Spain conquered, and even
France invaded, so that at the close of the Benou Umayya dynastry,
about A.D. 750, their empire consisted of many and large territories
in Europe, Africa and Asia. Their colour was white, as opposed to the
black of the Abbasides, and the green of the Fatimites, as descendants
But the Benou Umayya dynasty succumbed, A.D. 749, under the blows of
Ibrahim (great-grandson of Abbas, the uncle of the Prophet), and of
his younger brother, Abul Abbas, better known in history as As-Saffah,
or the Blood-shedder. A decisive battle was fought on the banks of the
river Zab, near Arbela, and Marwan II. (A.D. 744-750), the last of the
Omaiyide Khalifs, was defeated, and fled first to Damascus, and then
to Egypt, where he was eventually killed by his pursuers, A.D. 750.
The history of the reign of the Abbasides now begins, and under them
the power and glory of Islam reached their highest point. But it is
first necessary to allude to the conquest of Spain by the Omaiyides, a
branch of which family still retained for a long time in the West the
power which they had totally lost in the East.
The most important achievement of the reign of Walid I. (A.D.
705-715), the sixth prince of the Omaiyide dynasty, was the conquest
of Spain by his generals Tarik and Musa. The Arabs (known in Europe
under the name of Saracens) first established themselves in Cordova
about A.D. 711, and the two generals above named continued their
victorious progress throughout the country in 712 and 713, until
nearly nine-tenths of the peninsula was held by the Muhammadans.
Some years later France even was invaded by the Arabs, and the banners
of the Muslims were erected on the coasts of the Gulf of Lyons, on the
walls of Narbonne, of Nimes, of Carcassonne, and of Beziers. The Arabs
afterwards advanced as far as the plains of Tours, where their
victorious progress was checked by Charles Martel, who gained a great
victory over them near that town in October, A.D. 732, and completely
defeated them, so that they were obliged to retire again to Spain.
There successive viceroys and emirs ruled as the representatives of
the Khalifs at Damascus until the fall of the Omaiyide dynasty in the
East, A.D. 750.
But even after that Spain remained for many years under Arab
domination. Anarchy almost prevailed from A.D. 750 to 755, but in that
year the Arabs of Spain, weary of disorder, elected as their ruler
Abd-ar-Rahman, grandson of the Khalif Hashim, tenth prince of the
Omaiyide dynasty. At the time of his election, Abd-ar-Rahman was a
wanderer in the desert, pursued by his enemies, when a deputation from
Andalusia sought him out and offered him the Khalifate of Spain. It
was gladly accepted. He landed there in September, A.D. 755, was
universally welcomed, and founded at Cordova the Western Omaiyide
Khalifate, which lasted up to A.D. 1031, under sixteen rulers, with
certain interruptions during the reign of the last seven of them. On
the extinction of the Khalifate, Spain was broken up into various
petty kingdoms under kings and kinglets belonging to different Arab
tribes and families. This continued from A.D. 1032 to 1092, when the
Almoravides established themselves from A.D. 1092 to 1147, and were
followed by the Almohades, who reigned up to A.D. 1232.
After this Cordova, Seville, and other places were taken by Ferdinand
III. of Leon and Castile, between A.D. 1236 and 1248. On the fall of
Cordova the Muhammadan power declined with great rapidity; and, though
the celebrated kingdom of Granada was established by the Moors in A.D.
1232, it was their last refuge from the rising power of the
Christians. Some twenty-one princes reigned there till A.D. 1492, when
Granada itself was taken, and this last Muhammadan dynasty was driven
out of Spain by Ferdinand of Arragon and Isabella of Castile. Thus
ended the empire of the Arabs and the Moors in Spain, which had lasted
nearly eight hundred years.
The Spanish Arabs were extremely fond of learning. Indeed, it is due
to them to a very great extent that literature and science were kept
afloat in Europe during the ages that followed the invasion of the
Barbarians, as the Huns, Vandals, Goths, and Visigoths were generally
called. That interval known as the 'Dark Ages' was kept alight by the
Arabs alone. Abd-ar-Rahman II. established a library at Cordova during
his reign, A.D. 822-852. Hakim II., the successor of Abd-ar-Rahman
III., loved the sciences, founded the University of Cordova, and
collected a library of great magnitude (A.D. 961-976).
The revival of learning in Europe is chiefly attributed to the
writings of Arabian doctors and philosophers, and to the schools which
they founded in several parts of Spain and Italy. These seats of
learning were frequented even in the twelfth century of our era by
students from various parts of Europe, who disseminated the knowledge
thus acquired when they returned to their own countries. At that time
many Arabic works were translated into Latin, which thus facilitated
the progress of science. In the three last chapters of the second book
of the 'History of the Muhammadan Dynasties in Spain,' translated by
Pascual de Gayangos, the state of science and literature is detailed
in the words of Makkari, the original Arab author of that work, and in
it many once celebrated authors are mentioned, of whom not only their
productions, but even their very names, have since perished. The
distinguished writers whose works have come down to us will be more
particularly alluded to in the next chapter. Europe is also indebted
to the Arabs for the elements of many useful sciences, particularly
that of chemistry. Paper was first made in Europe by them, and their
carpets and manufactures in steel and leather were long unrivalled,
while in the Arabian schools of Cordova mathematics, astronomy,
philosophy, botany and medicine were taught with great success.
As Europe gradually emerged from darkness and ignorance, the Moors in
Spain became so weak and powerless that in A.D. 1526 Charles I of
Spain, and V. of Germany, ordered them to adopt the Spanish language.
In A.D. 1566 an edict of Philip II. forbade them to speak or write in
Arabic, and directed them to renounce all their traditional habits,
customs and ceremonies. Philip III. completed the work which his
father had left unfinished. In A.D. 1609 all the Moriscoes were
ordered to depart from the peninsula within three days, with a penalty
of death if they failed to obey the order, and from that time their
existence as a nation finally ceased in Europe, and Spain thus lost a
million of industrious inhabitants skilled in the useful arts. After
their expulsion Arabic literature more or less disappeared. Much of it
was destroyed, and a Spanish cardinal, it is said, once boasted that
he had destroyed with his own hands one hundred thousand Arabic
manuscripts! It is highly probable that the remnants of Andalusian
libraries were brought to light by Casiri (b. 1710, d. 1791) during
the past, and by Gayangos during the present century, and it is
doubtful if much more will ever now be discovered.
There are two buildings still extant in Spain which have survived the
Arabs, viz., their mosque at Cordova (now the Cathedral), and their
palace of the Alhambra at Granada, both well worth a visit, and well
described in Murray's and O'Shea's guides to Spain. During the reign
of Abd-ar-Rahman III. (A.D. 912-961) the city, palace, and gardens of
Medinatu-z-Ahra, three or four miles from Cordova, were constructed in
honour of his favourite wife or mistress, Az-zahra, and cost an
immense sum of money. At present no vestiges of them exist, and it is
supposed that not only these, but many other Arab mosques and
buildings, were intentionally destroyed by their conquerors, as the
hatred between the Christian and the Muslim in those days was of the
And now to return to the Abbasides, established in the East on the
downfall of the Omaiyide dynasty there in A.D. 750, and thus continue
the main line of Arab history.
There were, in all, thirty-seven Abbaside Khalifs, of whom Abu Jaafar,
surnamed Al-Mansur, the Victorious (A.D. 754-775), Harun-ar-Rashid
(A.D. 786-809), and Al-Mamun (A.D. 812-833) were the most celebrated.
Of these, the first, who was the second Khalif, founded Baghdad, the
capital of the Abbasides, about A.D. 762; the second, who was the
fifth Khalif, has been rendered immortal by the frequent illusions to
him, and to members of the Barmeki family, in the 'Arabian Nights';
while the third, who was the seventh Khalif, was a great patron of
literature and science.
As years rolled on the dynasty and its princes became weaker and
weaker, and finally came to an end under the thirty-seventh and last
Khalif Al-Mustaa 'sim Billah, with the capture of Baghdad in A.D. 1258
by Halaku Khan, the sovereign of the Mughals, and the grandson of
Long before this, however, the empire which the first of the Abbasides
had conquered was already broken up. About A.D. 879, in Persia,
Amr-bin-Lais founded the Suffary or Braiser dynasty, still subject to
the Commander of the Faithful. But even this allegiance only lasted
till A.D. 901, when the Samani and Dailami dynasties were established
in the North and South of Persia respectively, and quite independent
of the Khalifs of Baghdad.
In A.D. 909, the Fatimites, so designated from one Obaid Allah, a real
or pretended descendant of Ali and Fatima, the daughter of Muhammad,
established themselves in the North of Africa, and consolidated their
power there. In A.D. 972 Al-Moizz, or Abu Tamim, a great-grandson of
Obaid Allah, the founder of the Fatimite dynasty at Tunis, sent his
general Jawhar with an army to invade Egypt. The country was
conquered, the city of Cairo built, the seat of government was
transferred there, and the title of Khalif assumed by the Fatimites.
There they remained as reigning Khalifs until A.D. 1171, when
Salah-ad-Din (Saladin) usurped the sovereignty, and founded the
Ayoobite dynasty of Kurds, till its last ruler, Melik-al-Ashraf, was
deposed in A.D. 1250 by the Mamlook El Moizz, who in that year founded
the Baharite Mamlook dynasty, which lasted with variations in the
families till A.D. 1377. But in A.D. 1260 Ez-Zahir Beybars, a Mamlook
slave, secured the throne, and brought the then representative of the
Abbaside Khalifs (the family having been dethroned by the Mughals at
Baghdad in A.D. 1258) to Egypt, and recognised him as possessing
spiritual authority alone, but nothing else. From that time until the
taking of Egypt by Sultan Selim I. in A.D. 1517, the Abbaside Khalifs
retained the spiritual power first under the Baharite, and then under
the Circassian or Borgite Mamlooks. When Egypt became a Turkish
pashalic, Selim, the conqueror, compelled the representative of the
Abbaside Khalifs, by name Al-Motawukkel, to leave Cairo and reside in
Constantinople; and on his death the Ottoman Sultans assumed the title
of Khalif, which they hold to this day, and are recognised by the
Sunnis as the head of the Muhammadan religion, and the successors of
As regards Syria and Palestine (two countries more or less closely
connected, owing to their proximity and absence of distinct and
defined boundaries), on the termination of the rule of the Omaiyides
at Damascus in A.D. 750, they remained nominally under the Abbasides
till A.D. 969, when Syria was conquered by the Fatimites, who were
succeeded by the Seljuks, who captured Damascus about A.D. 1075, and
Antioch A.D. 1085. The struggles with the Crusaders commenced in A.D.
1096, and continued until Saladin's famous victory at Hattin in 1187,
when he became master of nearly the whole of Syria and Palestine.
Fighting still went on in these countries between the Franks and
others until A.D. 1518, when Selim I. conquered the country and
incorporated it with the Turkish Empire. No Arab prince has since
reigned in Egypt or Syria, though these countries have always
exercised certain influences over Arabia.
In Arabia itself, towards the end of the tenth century and the
beginning of the eleventh, A.D., the Karmathians had risen in revolt,
and detached that country from the Abbaside dynasty to such an extent
that she returned almost to her primitive independence. Indeed, it may
be said that, in the whole of Arabia, the Hijaz, with the Haram, or
sacred territory of Mecca, under the Shariff, or nobles, the lineal
descendants of the tribe of Koraish, alone retained some kind of
constituted authority, and paid allegiance sometimes to the government
of Baghdad, and sometimes to that of Egypt.
As already stated above, in A.D. 1517 the Turkish Sultan Selim I.
conquered Egypt, and obtained from the last real, or supposed
surviving, Abbaside kinsman of the Prophet a formal investiture of the
Muhammadan Khalifate. This was more religious than political in its
bearing, but still many of the tribes in Arabia offered their
allegiance to the Ottoman Government. From that time the Turks began
their dealings with Arabia, which remained in a sort of independence
under their own tribal Shaikhs, more or less according to the
circumstances of different districts, until the rise of the Wahhabi
movement, about the middle of the eighteenth century of our era.
The Wahhabi reform movement requires special mention. It began in
Arabia about A.D. 1740. The reformer and originator of the movement
was Muhammad bin Abdul Wahhab, born at the town of Ainah, in the
centre of the Nejd district, A.D. 1691. He died in A.D. 1787, aged
ninety-six. After some years spent in travel and in study, he began
his preaching about A.D. 1731. Driven from Ainah, his native place, as
Muhammad was driven from Mecca, Abdul Wahhab established himself at
ad-Diriyyah, where Muhammad bin Saood, the Shaikh of a sub-tribe of
the Anizeh, gave him shelter, and eventually married his daughter. By
preaching and fighting, his followers increased in number, and his
reforms spread throughout the Nejd district, and many converts were
made by him and his successors.
In A.D. 1797 a Turkish army from Baghdad attacked the Wahhabis, but
were beaten, and two years later Saood II. took and plundered Kerbela,
Taif, Mecca, and other places, and seems to have retained his power
and his government for several years.
In A.D. 1811 the Turks, who had quite lost their authority in Arabia,
requested Muhammad Ali of Egypt to put down the movement, and
reconquer the country. The first expedition, commanded by his son
Tussun, in its attempt to take Madinah, was nearly annihilated, but
succeeded the following year. Later on the campaign was conducted by
Muhammad Ali in person, and afterwards by his adopted son Ibrahim
Pasha, with considerable success. The final stronghold, ad-Diriyyah,
was captured in A.D. 1818, the Wahhabi chief captured, and sent first
to Egypt and then to Constantinople, where he was beheaded in December
of that year.
The Egyptian occupation of Arabia was followed by a renewal of the
Wahhabi movement, which eventually succeeded, in A.D. 1842, in driving
out the Egyptians, occupied as they were at the time with fighting the
Turks in Syria and Anatolia. Wahhabism was then re-established in some
parts, and independence in other parts, of the country; but on the
whole Wahhabism has never been very popular either in Arabia or India,
in which latter country it also has some followers. It may be regarded
as the latest sect of Islam, but does not make much progress.
Arabia may now be said to be under three different kinds of
government--_i.e._, partly under the Wahhabis, partly under the Turks,
and partly under independent rulers, while Aden has been held by the
English ever since its first capture in A.D. 1839. In other words, the
present position of Arabia may be more definitely described as
follows: Hasa, Hareek, the whole of Nejd, Kaseem, the provinces
adjoining Yaman on the north, and Aseer, forming a broad belt, and
stretching across the centre of the peninsula from the Red Sea to the
Persian Gulf, remain under Wahhabi influences. The Hijaz and some
sea-ports, such as Jedda and others, are at present absolutely under
the Turkish Government; while Bahrein, Oman and its capital Muscat,
and Yaman are more or less independent. Between Nejd and Syria a new
and promising kingdom has sprung up under Telal.
The time perhaps may come, and perhaps not far distant, when the Turks
will disappear altogether from Arabia, and Wahhabism and independent
tribes will alone remain. Another Muhammad or another Abdul Wahhab may
some day again appear, and bring together the tribes under one rule
for a time. It is doubtful, though, if ever the Arabs will again have
the power, talent, or enthusiasm to revive the glories of the Arabian
Empire, which now lives in history only, and is well worth a study.
For ready reference the following is a chronology of the dynasty of
the Ornaiyides, preceded by Muhammad and the first Khalifahs:
Muhammad the Apostle 622--632
Abu Bakr 632--634
Omar I. 634--643
1. Moawia I. 660--679
2. Yazid I. 679--683
3. Moawia II. 683--683
4. Marwan I. 683--684
5. Abdul-Malik 684--705
6. Walid I. 705--715
7. Sulaiman 715--717
8. Omar II. 717--720
9. Yazid II. 720--724
10. Hashim 724--743
11. Walid II. 743--744
12. Yazid III. 744--744
13. Ibrahim 744--744
14. Marwan II. 744--750
The dynasty of the Omaiyides was followed by that of the Abbasides,
who reigned as follows:
1. Abul-Abbas As-Saffah 750--754
2. Al-Mansur 754--775
3. Al-Mahdi 775--785
4. Al-Hadi 785--786
5. Harun-ar-Rashid 786--809
6. Al-Amin 809--812
7. Al-Mamun 812--833
8. Al-Mo'tasim Billah 833--842
9. Al-Wathik 842--847
10. Al-Mutwakkil 847--861
11. Al-Mustansir Billah 861--862
12. Al-Mustain Billah 862--866
13. Al-Mo'tiz Billah 866--869
14. Al-Muhtadi Billah 869--870
15. Al-Mo'tamid 870--892
16. Al-Motazid Billah 892--902
17. Al-Muktafi Billah 902--908
18. Al-Muktadir Billah 908--932
19. Al-Kahir Billah 932--934
20. Al-Radhi Billah 934--940
21. Al-Muttaki Billah 940--944
22. Al-Mustakfi Billah 944--945
23. Al-Mutia Billah 945--974
24. Al-Taya Billah 974--991
25. Al-Kadir Billah 991--1031
26. Al-Kaim Billah 1031--1075
27. Al-Muktadi Billah 1075--1094
28. Al-Mustazhir Billah 1094--1118
29. Al-Mustershid Billah 1118--1135
30. Al-Rashid Billah 1135--1136
31. Al-Muktafi 1136--1160
32. Al-Mustanjid Billah 1160--1170
33. Al-Mustazi 1170--1180
34. Al-Nasir Billah 1180--1225
35. Al-Tahir 1225--1226
36. Al-Mustansir Billah II. 1226--1240
37. Al-Mustaa'sim Billah 1240--1258
He was killed at the taking of Baghdad by Halaku Khan, and the last of
the dynasty, which continued, however, as a spiritual power in Egypt
till A.D. 1517.
The empire over which the Abbasides began to rule in A.D. 750 had
gradually dwindled away until little but Baghdad and its environs were
left on the fall of the dynasty in A.D. 1258. Will history repeat
itself in the same way as regards Constantinople, which in some years
may be the only territory left in Europe to a people who once were
conquerors, and whose arms even were carried to the walls of Vienna?
As Persia, Egypt, Syria, parts of Africa and Arabia, by degrees, were
severed from the Abbaside Empire, so the different provinces of Turkey
in Europe appear to be slowly separating themselves from the Turkish
Power, until finally there will be nothing left to them in Europe but
that city whose splendid position will ever make it a bone of
contention to both rising and declining States.
The following is a list of the Omaiyides who ruled in Spain a.d. 756
1. Abd-ar-Rahman I. 756-788
2. Hisham I. 788-796
3. Al-Hakim I. 796-822
4. Abd-ar-Rahman II. 822-852
5. Muhammad I. 852-886
6. Al-Mundhir 886-888
7. Abd-Allah 888-912
8. Abd-ar-Rahman III. 912-961
He was one of the greatest of the rulers of Cordova. Under this prince,
who at last assumed the title of Khalif and Commander of the Faithful,
the unity of Muhammadan Spain was for the time restored.
9. Al-Hakim II. 961-976
10. Hisham II. 976-1009
He was a Khalif only in name, while Muhammad Bin Ali Amir, surnamed
Al-Mansur, was the real ruler or regent till his death in A.D. 1002. He
was succeeded by his son, Abd-al-Malik, who ruled successfully till his
death in A.D. 1008, and was followed by his brother, Abd-ar-Rahman, who
was beheaded in A.D. 1009, Hisham II. having been previously deposed.
11. Muhammad II. (Al-Mahdi-billah) 1009-1009
12. Sulaiman 1009-1010
Hisham II. for the second time 1010-1013
Sulaiman for the second time 1013-1016
(1) Ali bin Hammud, a Berber chief 1016-1018
13. Abd-ar-Rahman IV. 1018-1019
(2) Al Kasim bin Hammud 1019-1023
14. Abd-ar-Rahman V. 1023-1024
15. Muhammad III. 1024-1025
(3) Yabya bin Ali bin Hammud 1025-1027
16. Hisham III. 1027-1031
A complete list of all the Muhammadan rulers in Spain will be found in
Makkari's history of these dynasties, translated by Gayangos.
The oral communications of the ancient Egyptians, Medes and Persians,
the two classic tongues of Europe, the Sanscrit of the Hindus and the
Hebrew of the Jews, have long since ceased to be living languages. For
the last twelve centuries no Western language has preserved its
grammar, its style, or its literature intact and intelligible to the
people of the present day. But two Eastern tongues have come down from
ages past to our own times, and continue to exist unchanged in books,
and, to a certain extent, also unchanged in language, and these are
Chinese and Arabic. In China, though the dialects differ in the
various provinces of the empire, still the written language has
remained the same for centuries. In Arabia the Arabic language has
retained its originality without very much dialectical alteration.
The unchangeable character of the Arabic language is chiefly to be
attributed to the Koran, which has, from its promulgation to the
present time, been regarded by all Muhammadans as the standard of
religion and of literary composition. Strictly speaking, not only the
history, but also the literature of the Arabs begins with Muhammad.
Excepting the Mua'llakat, and other pre-Islamitic poems collected in
the Hamasas of Abu Tammam and Al-Bohtori, in Ibn Kutaiba and in the
Mofaddhaliat, no literary monuments that preceded his time are in
existence. The Koran became, not only the code of religious and of
civil law, but also the model of the Arabic language, and the standard
of diction and eloquence. Muhammad himself scorned metrical rules; he
claimed as an apostle and lawgiver a title higher than that of
soothsayer and poet. Still, his poetic talent is manifest in numerous
passages of the Koran, well known to those able to read it in the
original, and in this respect the last twenty-five chapters of that
book are, perhaps, the most remarkable.
Although the power of the Arabs has long ago succumbed, their
literature has survived, and their language is still more or less
spoken in all Muhammadan countries. Europe at one time was lightened
by the torch of Arabian learning, and the Middle Ages were stamped
with the genius and character of Arab civilization. The great masters
of philosophy, medicine, astronomy, and mathematics, viz., Al-Kindi,
Al-Farabi, Ibn-Sina, Ibn-Rashid, Ibn Bajah, Razi, Al Battani, Abul
Ma'shar, Al-Farghani, Al-Jaber, have been studied both in the Spanish
universities and in those of the rest of Europe, where their names are
still familiar under the corrupted forms of Alchendius, Alfarabius,
Avicenna, Averroes, Avempace, Rhazes, Albategnius, Albumasar,
Alfraganius, and Geber.
Arabic literature commenced about half a century before Muhammad with
a legion of poets. The seven poems suspended in the temple of Mecca,
and of which more anon, were considered as the chief productions of
that time. The Mussulman era begins with the Hijrah, or emigration of
Muhammad from Mecca to Madinah, which is supposed to have taken place
on the 20th of June, A.D. 622; and the rise, growth, and decay of Arab
power, learning, and literature may be divided into three periods as
1. The time before Muhammad.
2. From Muhammad and his immediate successors, viz., Abu Bakr,
Omar, Othman, and Ali, through the Omaiyide and Abbaside dynasties, to
the end of the Khalifate of Baghdad, A.D. 1258.
3. From the fall of Baghdad to the present time.
Although the proper history of Arabian literature begins from the time
of Muhammad, it is necessary to cast a glance upon the age that
preceded him, in order to obtain a glimpse of pre-Islamitic wisdom.
The sage Lokman, whose name the thirty-first chapter of the Koran
bears, is considered, according to that book, to have been the first
man of his nation who practised and taught wisdom in all his deeds and
words. He was believed to have been a contemporary of David and
Solomon; his sayings and his fables still exist, but there is not much
really known about him, as the following extracts will show:
'Lokman, a philosopher mentioned in the Koran, is said to have been
born about the time of David. One tradition represents him as a
descendant of the Arab tribe of Ad, who, on account of his piety and
wisdom, was saved when the rest of his family perished by Divine
wrath. According to another story he was an Ethiopian slave, noted
alike for bodily deformity and a gift for composing fables and
apologues. This account of Lokman, resembling so closely the
traditional history of AEsop, has led to an opinion that they were the
same individual, but this is now generally supposed not to be the
case. The various reports agree in ascribing to Lokman extraordinary
longevity. His extant fables bear evident marks of modern alteration,
both in their diction and their incidents. They were first published
with a Latin translation of the Arabic by Erpenius (Leyden, 1615).
Galland produced a French translation of the fables of Lokman and
Bidpay at Paris in 1724, and there are other editions by De Sacey,
1816, Caussin de Perceval, 1818, Freytag, 1823, and Rodiger, 1830.'
Burton, in a footnote to page 118, of Volume X. of his 'Arabian
Nights,' however, says that 'There are three distinct Lokmans. The
first, or eldest Lokman, entitled Al-Hakim (the Sage), and the hero of
the Koranic chapter which bears his name, was son of Ba'ura, of the
children of Azar, sister's son to Job, or son of Job's maternal aunt;
he witnessed David's miracles of mail-making, and when the tribe of Ad
was destroyed he became king of the country. The second Lokman, also
called the Sage, was a slave and Abyssinian negro, sold by the
Israelites during the reign of David or Solomon, and who left a volume
of proverbs and exempla, not fables or apologues, some of which still
dwell in the public memory. The youngest Lokman, of the Vultures, was
a prince of the tribe of Ad, who lived 3,500 years, the age of seven
This accounts for the different ideas as regards the tradition of one
Lokman in the preceding paragraph.
Before the era of the Prophet poetry had attained some degree of
excellence. At the annual festival of Okatz the poets met and made
public recitations, and competed for prizes. Of prose literature there
was none, and the irregular, half-rhythmical, half-rhyming sentences
of the Koran were the first attempts in the direction of prose.
Passing over the host of pre-Islamitic poets, the disputed time and
order in which they appeared, as well as the ranks they respectively
occupied, it will only be necessary here to describe the Arabic idyll
or elegy (Kasida), and to notice the authors of the seven famous
Mua'llakat, or suspended, or strung-together poems of the temple of
Mecca, already alluded to above. As these poems were written in
letters of gold, they were also called Muzahhibat, or "gilded."
According to Arab notions, the subjects of a poet are four or five. He
praises, loves, is angry, mourns, or describes either female beauty,
animals, or objects of nature. Poems comprising one of these subjects
only are short, but those treating of several are longer, and contain
eulogies of chiefs, rulers, distinguished men and women, etc. The poet
touches on the valour, liberality and eloquence of the hero, on the
beauty and virtues of the woman, and describes the nearest
surroundings, which are of the greatest interest, such as the horse,
the camel, the antelope, the ostrich, the wild cow, the cloud, the
lightning, wine, the vestiges of the tent of the beloved, and the
The Kasidas of the Mua'llakat are a series of smaller poems, composed
on various occasions, and then strung together in one piece. Among
them the two Kasidas of Amra-al-Kais (Amriolkais), and of Antara, are
the most brilliant and romantic, on account of the sentiments of love
they breathe towards the three beauties--Oneiza, Fatima, and Abla. The
Kasida of Labid is famous for his description of both the camel and
the horse; that of Tarafa for the delineation of the camel; that of
Amru for the picture of a battle; while Harath chanted the praises of
arms, and of the King of Hirah, and Zoheir produced a poem full of
wise maxims. The whole seven contain a great deal about the personal
feelings, the personal courage, the heroic deeds, and the wonderful
adventures of the authors themselves--to which may be added
descriptions of various animals, of hunting scenes, and of battle, the
conventional lament for the absence or departure of a mistress, the
delight of meeting her, and other bright sketches of Arab life in camp
and on the march, with its joys, its sorrows, and its constant
Sir William Jones first brought these poems to the notice of the West,
and published a translation of them in A.D. 1782. 'They exhibit,' he
says, 'an exact picture of the virtues and the vices, the wisdom and
the folly, of the early Arabs. The poems show what may constantly be
expected from men of open hearts and boiling passions, with no law to
control, and little religion to restrain them.'
The above translations, with notes and remarks, have been reprinted by
Mr. W.A. Clouston, in his 'Arabian Poetry for English Readers,' at
Glasgow in 1881, and is a work well worthy of a perusal by any persons
who may be interested in the subject.
The names of the three ancient Arab poets considered to have been
possessed of equal talent with the authors of the Mua'llakat, are
Nabiga, Al-Kama, and Al-Aasha, and some specimens of their
composition, as also of those of other pre-Islamite poets, are to be
found in the fifteenth volume, No. 39, pages 65-108, of the 'Bombay
Branch of the Royal Asiatic Society,' translated by Mr. E. Rehatsek in
From Muhammad and his immediate successors (Abu Bakr, Omar, Othman and
Ali), through the Omaiyide and Abbaside dynasties, to the end of the
Khalifate of Baghdad, A.D. 1258.
The legislator of Islam, whose era began on the 16th July, A.D. 622
(though his actual departure from Mecca has been calculated to have
taken place on the 20th June, A.D. 622), is here to be considered not
from an historical, but from a poetical point of view. Although
Muhammad despised the metres in which the bards of his nation chanted
their Kasidas, and himself gave utterance in the name of Heaven to the
inspirations of his genius only in richly-modulated and rhymed prose,
nevertheless, according to the Oriental idea, he was regarded as a
poet. Those who declare that he was not a poet overlook the
circumstance that he was vehemently assailed by contemporary poets,
who attempted to degrade his heaven-inspired Surahs into mere poetical
fables. He himself protested against this insinuation, and declared at
the end of the 26th Surah, entitled 'The Poets,' that those are in
error who believe poets, as follows:
'And those who err follow the poets; dost thou not see how they roam
(as bereft of their senses) through every valley (of the imagination)
and that they say things which they do not perform? ... Except those
who believe, and do good works, and remember God frequently, and those
who defend themselves after they have been unjustly treated by poets
in their lampoons, and they who act unjustly shall know hereafter with
what treatment they shall be treated.'
These lines are important as far as the history of literature is
concerned. They are written against inimical poets, but distinguish
the friendly ones, who, taking the part of Muhammad, repaid the
lampooning poets in their own coin.
Some of the hostile poets, such as Hobeira and the woman Karitha, were
killed at the taking of Mecca, whilst Zibary and the woman Hertlemah
saved their lives only by making a profession of Islam. Muhammad had,
however, also his panegyrists, the chief of whom was Ka'b bin Zoheir,
the composer of the celebrated Kasida called 'The Poem of the Mantle,'
as a reward for which the Prophet threw his own cloak over him, under
the following circumstances, as related by Mr. J.W. Redhouse in the
preface to his translation of the poem published in the 'Arabian
Poetry for English Readers' alluded to above.
[Footnote 1: In this same work will also be found a
translation by Mr. Redhouse of another poem, also called
'The Poem of the Mantle,' but written by Sharaf-uddin
Muhammad Al-Busiri, who was born A.D. 1211, and died between
A.D. 1291 and 1300.]
Ka'b was a son of Zoheir, already mentioned as the author of one of
the pre-Islamite poems known as the 'Mua'llakat.' He had a brother
named Bujeir, and, like their father, both brothers were good poets.
Bujeir was first converted, and embraced the faith of Islam. Ka'b was
angry at this, and composed a lampoon on his brother, on the Prophet,
and on their new religion. This he sent to his brother by the mouth of
a messenger. Bujeir repeated it to Muhammad, who commented on it as
favourable to the new faith and to himself, but at the same time
passed a sentence of death on the satirist.
Bujeir well knew that his brother's life was in danger, and warned him
accordingly, advising him at the same time to renounce his errors, and
come repentant to the Prophet, or to seek a safe asylum far away. Ka'b
found out that his life would really soon be taken, and set out
secretly for Madinah. There he found an old friend, claimed his
protection, and went with him next morning to the simple meeting-house
where Muhammad and his chief followers performed their daily
devotions. When the service was ended, Ka'b approached Muhammad, and
the two sat down together. Ka'b placed his own right hand in that of
the Prophet, whom he addressed in these words: 'Apostle of God, were I
to bring to you Ka'b, the son of Zoheir, penitent and professing the
faith of Islam, wouldst thou receive and accept him? The Prophet
answered, 'I would.' 'Then,' said the poet, 'I am he!'
Hearing this, the bystanders demanded permission to put him to death.
Muhammad ordered his zealous followers to desist, and the poet then,
on the spur of the moment, recited a poem improvised at the time,
probably with more or less premeditation. It is said that when Ka'b
reached the fifty-first verse: 'Verily the Apostle of God is a light
from which illumination is sought--a drawn Indian blade, one of the
swords of God,' Muhammad took from his own shoulders the mantle he
wore, and threw it over the shoulders of the poet as an honour and as
a mark of protection. Hence the name given to the effusion, 'The Poem
of the Mantle,' A.D. 630.
Moawia, the first Khalif of the Omaiyides, endeavoured to purchase
this sacred mantle from Ka'b for ten thousand pieces of silver, but
the offer was refused. Later on it was, however, bought from Ka'b's
heirs for twenty thousand pieces of silver, and it passed into the
hands of the Khalifs, and was preserved by them as one of the regalia
of the empire until Baghdad was sacked by the Mughals. The mantle, or
what is supposed to be the self-same mantle, is now in the treasury
of the Sultan Khalif of the Ottomans at Constantinople, in an
apartment named 'The Room of the Sacred Mantle,' in which this robe is
religiously preserved, together with a few other relics of the great
[Footnote 2: _Apropos_ of this treasury, it is much to be
regretted that a complete catalogue of its contents has
never been prepared along with a brief historical account of
them. It is difficult to obtain the order, which comes
direct from the Sultan, to visit the collection; and even
then visitors are hurried through at such a pace that it is
impossible to examine with minuteness the many curiosities
Ka'b has thus come to be considered as one of the friendly poets, and
the names of two others are also mentioned, viz., Abd-Allah bin Rewaha
and Hassan bin Thabit. On the other hand, the most celebrated
antagonists who attacked Muhammad, not only with their verses, but
also with their swords, were Abu Sofyan, Amr bin Al-'A'asi, and
Abd-Allah bin Zobeir. These three became great political characters,
but later on made profession of Islam, and were the staunchest supporters
of it, rendering the greatest services to the Prophet during his life,
and to the cause after his death. But Muhammad's greatest triumph over
the poets was the conversion of Labid, who, after the perusal of the
commencement of the second Surah of the Koran, tore down his own poem,
which was hung up in the Kaabah, and ran to the Prophet to announce
his conversion, and to make his profession of Islam. Even Ali, the
cousin, son-in-law, and first convert of Muhammad, was a poet, but it
is uncertain which of the Diwans attributed to him are genuine, and
how many of his maxims of wisdom, over a hundred in number, are his
During the period under review the number of Arabic authors was
legion. Some idea of the number of writers, and of the subjects on
which they wrote, can be gathered from the Fihrist of An-Nadim, from
Ibn Khallikan's Biographical Dictionary, and from Haji Khalfa's
Encyclopaedia. With such a mass of information as is contained in the
above-mentioned works, it is difficult to deal in a small work. To put
them together in an intelligible form, the idea of classing the
authors, according to the subjects on which they principally wrote,
naturally presented itself. This plan, therefore, has been followed,
and a few details of the most celebrated writers will be given,
classified under the following heads:
Imams and lawyers.
Geographers and travellers.
Lexicographers, biographers and encyclopaedists.
Writers on natural history.
Collectors and editors of poems.
The Omaiyide Khalifs.
The Abbaside Khalifs.
The Spanish Khalifs.
During the latter part of the first century of the Hijrah (July,
622--July, 719), the first persons of note in the Muhammadan world
after Muhammad and his immediate successors were probably the seven
jurisconsults, viz., Obaid Allah, Orwa, Kasim, Said, Sulaiman, Abu
Bakr and Kharija, who all lived at Madinah about the same time; and it
was from them, according to Ibn Khallikan, that the science of law and
legal decisions spread over the world. They were designated by the
appellation of the Seven Jurisconsults, because the right of giving
decisions on points of law had passed to them from the companions of
Muhammad, and they became publicly known as Muftis. These seven alone
were acknowledged as competent to give Fatmas, or legal decisions.
They died respectively A.D. 720, 712, 719, 710, 725, 712 and 718.
The jurisconsults were followed by the doctors of theology and law,
or, as they were styled, Imams, or founders of the four orthodox
sects. Now, among the Sunni Muslims an Imam may be described as a
high-priest, or head, or chief in religious matters, whether he be the
head of all Muhammadans--as the Khalifah--or the priest of a mosque,
or the leader in the prayers of a congregation. This title, however,
is given by the Shias only to the immediate descendants of Ali, the
son-in-law of the Prophet, and they are twelve in number, Ali being
the first. The last of them, Imam Mahdi, is supposed to be concealed
(not dead), and the title which belongs to him cannot, they conceive,
be given to another.
But among the Sunnis it is a dogma that there must always be a visible
Imam or father of the Church. The title is given by them to the four
learned doctors who were the exponents of their faith, viz., Imams
Hanifa, Malik, Shafai and Hanbal. Of these, Imam Hanifa, the founder
of the first of the four chief sects of the Sunnis, died A.D. 767. He
was followed by Imam Malik, Imam Shafai, and Imam Hanbal, the founders
of the other three sects, who died A.D. 795, 820 and 855 respectively.
From these four persons are derived the various codes of Muhammadan
jurisprudence. They have always been considered as the fundamental
pillars of the orthodox law, and have been esteemed by Mussulmans as
highly as the fathers of the Church--Gregory, Augustine, Jerome and
Chrysostom--have been appreciated by Christians.
Of these four sects, the Hanbalite and Malikite may be considered as
the most rigid, the Shafaite as the most conformable to the spirit of
Islamism, and the Hanifite as the wildest and most philosophical of
In addition to the four Imams just mentioned, there was a fifth, of
the name of Abu Sulaiman Dawud az Zahari, who died A.D. 883. He was
the founder of the sect called Az-Zahariah (the External), and his
lectures were attended by four hundred Fakihs (doctors of the civil
and of the ecclesiastical law), who wore shawls thrown over their
shoulders. But his opinions do not seem to have secured many
followers, and in time both his ideas, and those of Sofyan at Thauri,
another chief of the orthodox sect, were totally abandoned.
The third century of the Hijrah (A.D. 816-913) is noted for the six
fathers of tradition, viz., Al-Bukhari, Muslim, At Firmidi, Abu Dawud,
An-Nasai and Ibn Majah, with whom others, such as Kasim bin Asbagh,
Abu Zaid, Al-Marwazi, Abu Awana and Al-Hazini, vied in great works on
tradition, but these last-named could never acquire the authority of
the six previously mentioned, who died A.D. 870, 875, 892, 889, 916,
In the beginning of Islam the great traditionists were Ayesha, the
favourite wife of the Prophet, the four rightly directed Khalifs,
viz., Abu Bakr, Omar, Othman and Ali, and some of the companions
known as the Evangelists of Islam. But besides these well-qualified
persons who had lived with or near Muhammad during his lifetime, many
others who had perhaps only seen him or spoken to him claimed to be
considered as companions, who handed down traditions; and when these
were all dead they were followed by others, who, having known the
companions, were now designated as the successors of the companions.
[Footnote 3: The names of these companions, and the kings,
princes, and countries to which they were sent by Muhammad,
are given in full detail in 'The Life of our Lord Muhammad,
the Apostle of God,' the author of which was Ibn Ishak; and
it was afterwards edited by Ibn Hisham. In the same work a
list is given of the disciples sent out by Jesus.]
Under these circumstances it can easily be imagined that many of the
traditions were of doubtful authenticity. Al-Bukhari, whose collection
of traditions of the Muhammadan religion holds the first place, both
as regards authority and correctness, selected seven thousand two
hundred and seventy-five of the most authentic out of ten thousand,
all of which he regarded as being true, having rejected two hundred
thousand as false. His book is held in the highest estimation, and
considered both in spiritual and temporal matters as next in authority
to the Koran. He was born A.D. 810, and died A.D. 870.
The Shiahs do not accept the collection of traditions as made by the
Sunnis, but have a collection of their own, upon which their system of
law, both civil and religious, is founded.
During the first and second centuries of the Hijrah (A.D. 622-816), of
all the physical sciences alchemy was studied most. The greatest
scientific man of the first century was undoubtedly Khalid, a prince
of the Omaiyide dynasty, and the son of Yazid I. His zeal for
knowledge and science induced him to get Greek and Syriac works
translated by Stephanus into Arabic, especially those which treated on
chemistry, or rather alchemy. Khalid, having been once reproached for
wasting all his time in researches in the art of alchemy, replied: 'I
have occupied myself with these investigations to show my
contemporaries and brothers that I have found in them a recompense and
a reward for the Khalifate which I lost. I stand in need of no man to
recognise me at court, and I need not recognise anyone who dances
attendance at the portals of dominion either from fear, ambition, or
covetousness.' He wrote a poem on alchemy, which bears the title of
'Paradise of Wisdom,' and of him Ibn Khallikan says: 'He was the most
learned man of the tribe of Koraish in all the different branches of
knowledge. He wrote a discourse on chemistry and on medicine, in which
sciences he possessed great skill and solid information.' He died A.D.
Later on Jaber bin Hayam, with his pupils, became a model for later
alchemists, and he has been called the father of Arabian chemistry. He
compiled a work of two thousand pages, in which he inserted the
problems of his master, Jaafar as Sadik, considered to be the father
of all the occult sciences in Islam. Jaber was such a prolific writer
that many of his five hundred works are said to bear his name only on
account of his celebrity, but to have been written in reality by a
variety of authors. His works on alchemy were published in Latin by
Golius, under the title of 'Lapis Philosophorum,' and an English
translation of them by Robert Russell appeared at Leyden in A.D. 1668.
Jaber died A.D. 766, and is not to be confounded with Al-Jaber
(Geber), the astronomer, who lived at Seville about A.D. 1190, and
constructed there an astronomical observatory.
Astronomy appears to have been always a favourite science with the
Arabs from the earliest times. In A.D. 772 there appeared at the court
of the Khalif Mansur (A.D. 754-775), Muhammad bin Ibrahim bin Habib al
Fezari, the astronomer, who brought with him the tables called Sind
Hind, in which the motions of the stars were calculated according to
degrees. They contained other observations on solar eclipses and the
rising of the signs of the zodiac, extracted by him from the tables
ascribed to the Indian king, Figar. The Khalif Mansur ordered this
book to be translated into Arabic to serve as a guide for Arab
astronomers. And these tables remained in use till the time of the
Khalif Mamun (A.D. 813-833), when other revised ones bearing his name
came into vogue. These, again, were abridged by Abul Ma'shar
(Albumasar, died A.D. 885-886), called the prince of Arabian
astrologers, who, however, deviated from them, and inclined towards
the system of the Persians and of Ptolemy. This second revision was
more favourably received by the Arab astronomers than the first, and
the Sind Hind was superseded by the Almagest of Ptolemy. Better
astronomical instruments also came into use, though previously the
Al-Fezari above mentioned had been the first in Islam who constructed
astrolabes of various kinds, and had written several astronomical
Mention might be made of about forty mathematicians and astronomers
who wrote books on these subjects. The best of them, such as
Al-Farghani (Alfraganius) and others, lived at the court of Mamun, who
built an astronomical observatory in Baghdad and another near
Damascus, on Mount Kasiun. He caused also two degrees of the meridian
to be measured on the plain of Sinjar, so as to ascertain the
circumference of the earth with more precision. In A.D. 824 there were
held philosophical disputations in his presence. Al-Farghani was the
author of an introduction to astronomy, which was printed by Golius at
Amsterdam in 1669, with notes.
Between the years A.D. 877 and 929 there flourished the famous
calculator and astronomer, Muhammad bin Jaber al Battani, Latinized as
Albategnius. He was the author of the astronomical work entitled 'The
Sabaean Tables,' and adopted nearly the system and the hypothesis of
Ptolemy, but rectified them in several points, and made other
discoveries, which procured him a distinguished place among the
scholars whose labours have enriched astronomical science. Al-Battani
approached much nearer to the truth than the ancients as far as the
movements of the fixed stars are concerned. He measured the greatness
of the eccentricity of the solar orbit, and a more correct result
cannot be obtained. To the work containing all his discoveries he gave
the name of 'As-Zij-as Sabi,' which was translated into Latin under
the title 'De Scientia Stellarum.' The first edition of it appeared at
Nuremberg in A.D. 1537, but it is believed that the original work is
in the library of the Vatican. He was classed by Lalande among the
forty-two most celebrated astronomers of the world. He died A.D.
Another celebrated astronomer, Ali bin Yunis, was a native of Egypt,
and appears to have lived at the court of the demented tyrant of
Egypt, Al-Hakim bramrillah, and under his patronage to have composed
the celebrated astronomical tables called, after his name, 'The
Hakimite Tables.' Ibn Khallikan states that he had seen these tables
in four volumes, and that more extensive ones had not come under his
notice. These tables were considered in Egypt to be of equal value to
those of the astronomer Yabya bin Ali Mansur, who had in A.D. 830, by
order of the Khalif Mamun, undertaken astronomical observations both
at Baghdad and Damascus. Ibn Yunis spent his life in the preparation
of astronomical tables and in casting horoscopes, for it must be
remembered that with the Muslims astronomy and astrology were
synonymous, and their most learned astronomers were also their most
skilful astrologers. His character for honesty was highly esteemed,
and he was also well versed in other sciences, and displayed an
eminent talent for poetry. He died A.D. 1009, and is not to be
confounded with his father, Ibn Yunis, the historian, who died A.D.
Yet another name must be mentioned, viz., the Spanish-Arab astronomer
Ibn Abd-ar-Rahman Es-Zerkel, Europeanized as Arzachal. He first
resided at Toledo, at the court of its sovereign, Mamun, for whom he
made an astrolabe, which he called in his honour the Mamunian. He then
went to Seville, where he wrote for Motamid bin Abbad (A.D. 1069-1091)
a treatise on the use of certain instruments. During his residence at
Toledo he constructed two clepsydras, the waters of which decreased
and increased according to the waning and growing of the moon, and
these two basins were destroyed only in A.D. 1133 by Alphonse VI.,
when he took Toledo. Arzachal left a work on eclipses, and on the
revolution of years, as well as the tables of the sky, to which the
name of Toledan tables have been given. His writings, but especially
the last, which must have been consulted by the editors of the
Alphonsine tables, were never translated, and exist only in manuscript
in libraries where but few scholars can consult them. Arzachal made
many observations in connection with the sun, and was also the
inventor of the astronomical instrument called after his name,
Zerkalla. He died A.D. 1080.
Before leaving this subject it may be mentioned that Makkari, in his
great encyclopaedia of Spain, enumerates fifteen astronomers of
Andalusia, all more or less known in their time. Also that
Bedei-ul-Astrolabi and Ibn Abdul-Rayman distinguished themselves as
makers of astronomical instruments, and inventors of new ones. While
Arzachal was the greatest representative of Arab astronomy in the West,
Umar Khayam, the astronomer, mathematician, freethinker, and poet, was
its greatest representative in the East, in Persia, where he died A.D.
A great deal in Arabic literature has been written about grammar, and,
until its principles were finally laid down and established, it was
always a source of continual controversy between different professors
and different schools. Abul Aswad ad-Duwali has been called the father
of Arabic grammar. It is said that the Khalif Ali laid down for him
this principle: the parts of speech are three, the noun, the verb, and
the particle, and told him to form a complete treatise upon it. This
was accordingly done; and other works on the subject were also
produced, but none of them are apparently now extant. Muhammad bin
Ishak has stated that he saw one of them, entitled 'Discourse on the
Governing and the Governed Parts of Speech;' and the author of the
'Fihrist' also alludes to this work. Abul-Aswad died at Busra in A.D.
688, aged eighty-five, but some years later his two successors in this
branch of literature (viz., Al-Khalil and Sibawaih) far surpassed him
in every way.
Al-Khalil bin Ahmad, born A.D. 718, was one of the great masters in
the science of grammar, and the discoverer of the rules of prosody,
which art owes to him its creation. He laid the foundation of the
language by his book 'Al-Ain' (so called from the letter with which it
begins), and by the aid he afforded thereby to Sibawaih, whose master
he was, in the composition of his celebrated grammatical work known by
the name of 'The Book.' In the work called 'Al-Ain,' Khalil first
arranged the stock of Arabic words, dealing with the organ of speech
and the production of sounds, and then dividing the words into
classes, the roots of which consisted of one, two, three, four, or
five letters. It is still a matter of dispute whether the book
'Al-Ain' was wholly composed by Khalil himself, or completed in course
of time by his pupils. A copy of this celebrated lexicon and work on
philology is in the Escurial Library. Khalil also wrote a treatise on
prosody, and other works on grammar, and a book on musical intonation.
He died A.D. 786, at Busra. 'Poverty,' he said, 'consists not in the
want of money, but of soul; and riches are in the mind, not in the
Sibawaih, the pupil of Khalil, has been called the father of Arabic
lexicography, and the lawgiver of Arabic grammar. Ibn Khallikan says
that he was a learned grammarian, and surpassed in this science every
person of former and later times. As for his 'Kitab,' or 'Book,'
composed by him on that subject, it has never had its equal. The great
philologist and grammarian, Al-Jahiz, said of the book of Sibawaih,
that none like it had ever been written on grammar, and that all
writers on this subject who had succeeded him had borrowed from it.
When Al-Kisai was tutor to the prince Al-Amin, son of Harun-ar-Rashid,
Sibawaih came to Baghdad, and the two great grammarians (Sibawaih, the
chief of the school of Busra, and Al-Kisai, chief of the school of
Kufa) had a long dispute about a certain expression of Arabic speech,
and an Arab of the desert was called in to arbitrate between them. The
man first decided in favour of Sibawaih, but when the question was put
in another form, the Bedouin asserted that Kisai was right. As
Sibawaih considered that he had been unjustly treated in the matter,
he left Baghdad for good. The year of his death has been given
differently by various authors, the earliest date being A.D. 787, and
the latest A.D. 809.
The most celebrated grammarians of the third century of the Hijrah
(A.D. 816-913) were Al-Mubarrad, who died A.D. 898, and Thalab, who
died A.D. 903. They were also great antagonists to each other.
Al-Mubarrad, the author of thirty works, was the chief of the school of
Busra, and Thalab of that of Kufa, both founded during the preceding
century by Sibawaih and Kisai. Thalab was the first collector of books
in Islam, and those left by him were very valuable.
Mention must also be made of Al-Farra, the grammarian, and
distinguished by his knowledge of grammar, philology, and various
branches of literature. He died A.D. 822, at the age of sixty-three,
and preceded both Mubarrad and Thalab, the latter of whom used to say:
'Were it not for Al-Farra, pure Arabic would no longer exist; it was
he who disengaged it from the ordinary language and fixed it by
writing.' At the request of the Khalif Al-Mamun he drew up in two
years a most elaborate work, which contained the principles of
grammar, and all the pure Arabic expressions which he had heard. It
was entitled 'Al-Hudud' (the Limits or Chapters), and directly it was
finished he commenced another in connection with the Koran, which is
spoken of as a most wonderful production. He wrote besides several
other works on grammar, and acted as tutor to the two sons of the
Though many other grammarians could be named, such as Al-Akhfash al
Ausat, Abu Amr as Shaibani, Abu Bakr al Anbari, etc., none can be
considered so celebrated as the persons above mentioned, who are
regarded as the founders of the principles on which Arabic grammar has
In the middle of the third century of the Hijrah (A.D. 816-913), the
Arabs first began to distinguish themselves as travellers and
geographers. When Muslim Homeir was, in A.D. 845, ransomed from his
captivity among the Byzantines and returned to his country, he wrote a
book with the title of 'Admonitions on the Countries, Kings and
Offices of the Greeks.' Forty years afterwards Jaafar bin Ahmed al
Mervezi produced the first geographical work under the title of
'Highways and Countries,' which was followed by those of Ibn Foslan,
Ibn Khordabeh, Jeihani, Al-Istakhri, Ibn Haukul, Al-Beruni, Al-Bekri
and Idrisi. The great historian, Masudi, was also a writer of travels
and an ambassador. Ibn Foslan was sent by the Khalif Muktadir (A.D.
908-932) to the King of the Bulgarians. Abu Dolaf, who accompanied an
ambassador from China to the frontiers of that country, made, on his
return, a report which Yakut afterwards embodied in his voluminous
A few details will be given about the six chief geographers and
travellers of this period, viz., Ibn Khordabeh, Al-Istakhri, Ibn
Haukul, Al-Beruni, Al-Bekri and Idrisi.
As regards the first-named, it would appear that he has been the
object of considerable controversies among the Orientalists of Europe.
After employment in the post and intelligence departments in the
provinces, he subsequently came to the court of the Khalif Motamid
(A.D. 870-892), and became one of his privy councillors. He is the
author of several works on various subjects, but his 'Geography,' says
Sir H.M. Elliot, is the only work we possess of this author, and of
this there is only one copy in Europe, in the Bodleian Library at
Oxford. He died about A.D. 912.
Al-Istakhri, who flourished about the year A.D. 951, obtained his name
from Istakhar (_i.e._, Persepolis), where he was born. He was a
traveller whose geographical work has been translated into German by
Mordtmann. When Istakhari was in the Indus Valley he met another
celebrated traveller, Ibn Haukul, whose book Sir William Ouseley
translated in A.D. 1800 into English, under the title of 'The Oriental
Geography of Ibn Haukul.' Haukul, who died A.D. 976, had travelled for
nearly twenty-eight years in the countries of Islam with the works of
Ibn Khordabeh and Jeihani in his hands, and his work, which bears the
generally approved title of 'Highways and Countries,' is based on the
book of Istakhri.
But the greatest geographer and naturalist of this period is Abu
Raihan Al-Beruni (born about A.D. 971), who accompanied Mahmud the
Ghaznavide on his invasions to India. He was to Mahmud of Ghazni what
Aristotle was to Alexander, with the difference, however, that he
actually accompanied the conqueror on his Indian campaigns. He
travelled into different countries and to and from India for the space
of forty years, and during that time was much occupied with astronomy
and astronomical observations, as well as geography. His works are
said to have exceeded a camel-load, but the most valuable of all of
them is his description of India. It gives an account of the religion
of India, its philosophy, literature, geography, chronology,
astronomy, customs, law and astrology about a.d. 1030, and has been
edited by Edward Sachau, Professor in the Royal University of Berlin.
An English edition, containing a preface, the translation of the
Arabic text, notes and indices, has also been published. Al-Beruni
died at Ghurna A.D. 1038. He used to correspond with Avicenna, who was
his contemporary, and who gives in his works the answers to the
questions addressed to him by this famous geographer, astronomer,
geometrician, historian, scholar, and logician.
Some years later Abu O'beid Abd-Allah Al-Bekri distinguished himself
as one of the greatest geographers, with whose labours Quatremere and
Dozy and Gayangos have made us better acquainted. He was, by birth,
from Andalusia, whence also many others travelled to the East, either
for instruction or for trade or as pilgrims, and of whom about a
couple of dozen are mentioned by Makkari. Some of these gave
descriptions and topographies, to which class of literature also the
poetical laudations of celebrated towns belong. Not only Baghdad,
Damascus, Cairo, Fez, Morocco and Khairwan were praised or satirized,
but also Cordova, Seville, Granada, Malaga, Toledo, Valencia and Zohra
were described in Arabic poems. Al-Bekri died in A.D. 1094-1095, and
was followed by Idrisi, the author of a work on Arabian geography of
some celebrity, and which has been translated into Latin. He died A.D.
Of historians in Arab literature there are many, but only the most
celebrated will be noted. Muhammad bin Ishak, who died about A.D. 767,
produced the best and most trustworthy biography of the prophet
Muhammad. His work was published under the patronage of the Abbaside
princes, and was, in fact, composed for the Khalif Al-Mansur (A.D.
754-775). It was used as the chief source of information by Ibn
Hisham, the next historian of note, in his life of the Prophet, which
work has been edited by Dr. Wustenfeld, and translated into German by
Dr. Weil, and into English by Mr. E. Rehatsek, whose manuscript,
however, has not yet been printed. Ibn Hisham, who died in A.D. 828,
was the father of Arabic genealogy, and Abu-el-Siyadi, who died in
A.D. 857, is next to him.
But the real father of Arabian history was Al-Wackidi, a good and
trustworthy historian, thirty-two of whose works are known, all
relating to the conquests of the Arabs, and other such subjects. He
died A.D. 822. With him generally has been associated his secretary,
Muhammad bin Saad, a man of unimpeachable integrity, and of the
highest talents, merit, and eminence. He has left us some most
interesting works, full of valuable information relating to those
times. He died at Baghdad A.D. 844.
Al-Madaini, who died A.D. 839, was the author of two hundred and fifty
historical works, of which, however, nothing has yet been discovered,
except their titles as given in the 'Fihrist.'
Passing over many other historians, two more only will be mentioned,
viz., Abu Jafir at-Tabari and Al-Masudi.
Tabari (whose annals are now being edited by a company of European
Orientalists) was born A.D. 838, at Amol, in the province of
Tabaristan. He travelled a great deal, and composed many works on
history, poetry, grammar and lexicography. His work on jurisprudence
extends to several volumes, and his historical works stamp him as one
of the most reliable of Arab historians, while his numerous other
works also bear witness to the variety and accuracy of his
acquirements. He died at Baghdad A.D. 923, and has been called by
Gibbon the Livy of the Arabians.
Al-Masudi, a contemporary of the great historian Tabari, died
thirty-four years after him, in A.D. 957. His great work, 'Meadows of
Gold and Mines of Gems,' with the Arabic text above and a French
translation below, has been published in nine volumes (1861-1877) by
Barbier de Meynard, in connection with Pavet de Courteille, at the
expense of the French Government. Dr. A. Sprenger (who translated one
volume of the work into English for the Oriental Translation Fund,
London, 1841) calls the author of it the Herodotus of Arabian history,
because he had, like his Greek prototype, undertaken extensive
travels, and had like him made the description of countries and
nations his chief occupation. The titles of ten of his works are known
to us, but the principal one is that named above, in the composition
of which he used eighty-five historical, geographical, and
philological works, as he himself informs us in the first chapter of
his history. The work itself contains one hundred and thirty-two
Ibn al Athir al Jazari, born A.D. 1160 and died A.D. 1233, was also an
historian of note, and a personal friend of Ibn Khallikan, who writes
of him as follows: 'His knowledge of the Traditions, and his
acquaintance with that science in its various branches, placed him in
the first rank; and his learning as an historian of the ancients and
moderns was not less extensive; he was perfectly familiar with the
genealogy of the Arabs, their adventures, combats and history; whilst
his great work, "The Kamil or Complete," embracing the history of the
world from the earliest period to the year 628 of the Hijrah (A.D.
1230-1231), merits its reputation as one of the best productions of
the kind.' Another of Ibn Al Athir's works is the history of the most
eminent among the companions of Muhammad, in the shape of a
As the development of Arab letters proceeded, in the course of time
various authors began to tabulate the different branches of knowledge
and science, and these, with the biographies of many of the writers,
and the lists of their works, formed a distinct branch in the
literature of that day.
The most noteworthy of them all was Abul Faraj Muhammad bin Ishak, who
is generally known by the name of Ibn Ali Yakub al Warrak the copyist,
surnamed An-Nadim al Baghdadi, the social companion from Baghdad, and
the author of the 'Fihrist.' It may be truly said that this writer,
along with Ibn Khallikan, laid the foundations of the records of the
edifice of encyclopaedical and biographical works, which was afterwards
completed by Haji Khalfa and Abul Khair. Without the work of Ibn
Khallikan it would be as impossible to give a history of Arab
scholars, as without the work of An-Nadim to give an account of Arab
The 'Kitab al-Fihrist' was written by An-Nadim in A.D. 987, and is
divided into ten sections, dealing with every branch of letters and
learning. It gives the names of many authors and their works long
since extant, and shows the enormous amount of writings produced by
the Arabs during the periods under review, up to A.D. 987, the date of
the author's work. A short account of this ancient and curious book
has been given in the _Journal Asiatique_ for December, 1839, and
from the work itself Von Hammer Purgstall has been able to gather that
the 'Thousand and One Nights' ('Arabian Nights') had a Persian origin.
In the eighth section of the 'Fihrist' the author says that the first
who composed tales and apologues were the kings of the early Persian
dynasties, and that these tales were augmented and amplified by the
Sasanians (A.D. 228-641). The Arabs then translated them into their
own language, and composed other stories like them.
Ibn Khallikan, the most worthy of biographers, must also be mentioned
here, though he died in A.D. 1282, twenty-four years after the fall of
Baghdad, having been born in A.D. 1211. This very eminent scholar and
follower of Shafa'i doctrines, was born at Arbela, but resided at
Damascus, where he had filled the place of Chief Kadi till the year
A.D. 1281, when he was dismissed, and from that time to the day of his
death he never went out of doors. He was a man with the greatest
reputation for learning, versed in various sciences, and highly
accomplished. He was a scholar, a poet, a compiler, a biographer and
an historian. By his talents and writings he merited the honourable
title of the most learned man and the ablest historian. His celebrated
biographical work, called the 'Wafiat-ul-Aiyan,' or Deaths of Eminent
Men, is the acme of perfection. This work was translated from the
Arabic by Baron MacGuckin de Slane, a member of the council of the
Asiatic Society of Paris, and printed by the Oriental Translation Fund
of Great Britain and Ireland in A.D. 1842, 1843, 1868 and 1871. For
all those who wish to gain a knowledge of the legal literature of the
Muhammadans it is a most valuable work, as the Baron has added to the
text numerous learned notes, replete with curious and interesting
information relating to the Muhammadan law and lawyers. Ibn Khallikan
died, aged seventy-three lunar years, in the Najibia College at
Damascus, and was buried in the cemetery of As-Salihiya, a well-known
village situated on the declivity of Mount Kasiun, a short distance to
the north of Damascus, and from which a splendid view of the town and
its surrounding gardens is obtained. When lately there I made
inquiries about the tomb of this great Arab _litterateur_, but
without success. His tomb has quite disappeared, and his name seemed
to be forgotten; but his work still lives, an everlasting monument of
his industry and his intelligence.
It will be remembered that the early Arab poets described men, women,
animals, and their surroundings in their effusive Kasidas before
prose-writing was established. Later on grammarians and philologists
began to write books on the different objects of nature and on the
physiology of man; also treatises on the horse, the camel, bees,
mountains, seas, rivers, and all natural phenomena. There were thus
laid down, though not a scientific, at least a philological basis, for
the future development of the natural sciences and geography. Such
monographs were only in later times collected in encyclopaedic works,
in which they were inserted in such a manner as to constitute various
chapters only, and no longer separate treatises.
Khalef-al-Ahmer (whom Suyuti declared to be a great forger, because he
pretended that some poems written by himself had been composed by
ancient Arab poets) wrote the first book on Arab mountains, and about
the poems recited concerning them. Ahmed bin-ud Dinveri wrote, in
addition to several grammatical and mathematical works, a book on
plants, and after him the grammarian Al-Jahiz wrote the first treatise
on animals, but more from a philological point of view than from that
of natural history. He wrote, moreover, on theology, geography,
natural history, and philology; but his most celebrated work is his
'Book of Animals,' in which he displayed all his knowledge of the
Arabic tongue. He was frightfully ugly, and obtained the surname of
Jahiz on account of his protuberant eyes. He himself informs us that
the Khalif Mutwakkil intended to appoint him as tutor to his sons, but
was deterred by his ugliness, and dismissed him with a present of ten
thousand dirhems. Al-Jahiz died A.D. 869, over ninety years of age.
Philology is a term now generally used as applicable to that science
which embraces human language in its widest extent, and may be shortly
called 'the science of language.' But in earlier times philology
included, with few exceptions, everything that could be learned--many
and various subjects, without particular reference to the meaning now
generally adopted concerning it.
There will be found among the Arab authors of this period many
philologists who also wrote upon other matters, but have been recorded
here as having particularly excelled in this particular branch of
Al Kasim bin Ma'an was the first who wrote on the rarities of the
language and on the peculiarities of authors, and, according to the
'Fihrist,' he surpassed all his contemporaries by the variety of his
information. Tradition and traditionists, poetry and poets, history
and historians, scholastic theology and theologians, genealogy and
genealogists, were the subjects on which he displayed the extent of
his acquirements. He died A.D. 791.
Abu Ali Muhammad bin-al Mustanir bin Ahmad, generally known by the
name of Kutrub, was also a grammarian and philologist, and wrote books
and treatises on these subjects, as also on natural history. He died
Philology and Arabic poetry were the special objects of the studies of
Abu Amr Ishak bin Mirar as Shaibani, and in these two branches of
knowledge his authority is of the highest order. He composed a number
of works and treatises, and wrote with his own hand upwards of eighty
volumes. He died A.D. 825.
But the two earliest, and perhaps the two most celebrated,
philologists were Al-Asmai and Abu Obaida, who outshone their
successors for all time to come, and were distinguished--the former by
his wit, and the latter by his scholarship.
Abu Said Abd-al Malik bin Kuraib al-Asmai was born A.D. 739 or 740,
and died A.D. 831. He was a complete master of the Arabic language, an
able grammarian, and the most eminent of all those who transmitted
orally historical narrations, anecdotes, stories, and rare expressions
of the language. When the poet Abu Nuwas was informed that Asmai and
Abu Obaida had been introduced at Harun's court, he said that the
latter would narrate ancient and modern history, but that the former
would charm with his melodies. Ibn Shabba was informed by Asmai
himself 'that he knew by heart sixteen thousand pieces of verse
composed in the measure called Rajaz, or free metre,' and Ishak al
Mausili asserted 'that he never heard al-Asmai profess to know a
branch of science without discovering that none knew it better than
he.' No one ever explained better than Al-Asmai the idioms of the
desert Arabs. Most of his works, which amount to thirty-six, treat of
the language and its grammar; but he also wrote a book on the horse
and different treatises on various other animals, such as the camel,
the sheep, wild beasts, etc., and their physiology.
Al-Asmai's contemporary, Abu Obaida, was an able grammarian and an
accomplished scholar. He was born A.D. 728, and died at Busra A.D.
824, leaving nearly two hundred treatises, of which the names of many
have been given by Ibn Khallikan, and most of them are of a purely
philological character. There are many anecdotes about him, and many
sayings of clever men regarding him. Abu Nuwas took lessons from Abu
Obaida, praised him highly, and decried Al-Asmai, whom he detested.
When asked what he thought of Al-Asmai, he replied, 'A nightingale in
a cage,' meaning probably that a nightingale in a cage is pleasing to
hear, but there is nothing else good about it. Abu Obaida he described
as 'a bundle of science packed up in a skin.'
Abu Zaid al-Ansari was a philologist and grammarian, and a
contemporary of the two persons just described. He held the first rank
among the literary men of that time, and devoted his attention
principally to the study of the philology of the Arabic language, its
singular terms and rare expressions. Of him Al-Mubarrad said: 'Abu
Zaid was an abler grammarian than Al-Asmai and Abu Obaida, but these
two came next to him, and were near to each other. Abu Obaida was the
most accomplished scholar of the day.' Abu Zaid composed a number of
useful philological works, and titles of thirty-one of them are given
in the 'Fihrist.' He died A.D. 830, over ninety years of age.
Abu Othman Bakr bin Muhammad bin Habib al-Mayini, briefly called Abu
Othman, was celebrated as a philologer and grammarian, as also for his
knowledge in general literature. He learned philology from Abu Zaid,
Abu Obaida, Al-Asmai, and others, and had for pupil Al-Mubarrad, who
learned much from his master, and handed down many pieces of
traditional literature obtained from him. Abu Othman, once being asked
his opinion about various men of science, curtly summarized them as
follows: 'The Koran-readers are deceitful administrators, the
traditionists are satisfied with superfluities, poets are too
superficial, grammarians much too heavy, narrators deal only in neat
expressions, and the only real science is jurisprudence,' He died A.D.
Abul Aina was a philologist, but also a great joker, anecdote-teller,
and poet. His memory was equal to his eloquence, and, being
quick-witted, he was never in want of a repartee when the occasion
required it; indeed, he ranked among the most brilliant wits of the
age. To a vizier, who said that everything current about the liberality
of the Barmekides was only so much exaggeration and invention of
leaf-scribblers, he replied: 'Of you, O vizier, the leaf-scribblers
will certainly report nothing and invent nothing.' There are many other
anecdotes and stories told about him. Being asked how long he would
continue to praise some and satirize others, he replied: 'As long as
the virtuous do good and the wicked do evil, but God forbid that I
should be as the scorpion which stingeth equally the prophet and the
infidel.' He had a most wonderful memory, which he applied, however,
not to the preservation of interpretations and their vouchers, but to
that of anecdotes, drolleries, and witty sayings, wherefore his name
has been perpetuated as that of a joker. He died A.D. 896.
Mention must also be made of Abdullah bin Muslim bin Kutaiba, who was
a philologist and grammarian of eminent talent, and noted for the
correctness of his information. He was the author of many works, such
as 'The Book of Facts,' 'The Writer's Guide,' 'Notices on the Poets,'
and 'A Treatise on Horses,' and others, all of which were more or less
celebrated in their time. He was born A.D. 828, and died, some say, in
A.D. 884, others in A.D. 908.
Ibn Duraid, whose many other names are given by Ibn Khallikan, is
described by that author as 'the most accomplished scholar, the ablest
philologer, and the first poet of the age.' Masudi and other men of
learning also speak of him in the highest terms. He composed several
works on natural history, and produced also a complete Dictionary of
this kind, after the model of the books 'Al-A'in' and 'Al-Jim,' the
two letters of the alphabet with which Khalil, the grammarian, and Abu
Amr as Shaibani respectively began their works. Ibn Duraid died at
Baghdad A.D. 933. The celebrated Motazelite divine Abu Haslim Abd-as
Salam Al-Jubbai died the same day, and this caused the people to say
that 'To-day philology and dogmatic theology have ceased to exist.'
In the East, by philosophy not only logic and metaphysics are meant,
but also all ethical, political, mathematical, and medical sciences.
Indeed, it may be said that nearly all learned men were in those days
called philosophers, a term which included mathematicians,
astronomers, physicians, encyclopaedists and others.
From the mass of Arab authors all laying claim to the title of
philosopher, it is perhaps an invidious task to select a few only, and
even those selected by one person might be rejected by another. But
public opinion will probably agree in naming three persons as having
claim to the highest rank in Arab learning. They are Al-Kindi,
Al-Farabi, and Ali-ibn Sina, commonly called Avicenna. Ali-bin Ridhwan,
Al-Ghazali, Ibn Bajah (Avempace), and Ibn Rashid (Averroes) have also
their claims to be considered, while Thalab bin Korra, Kosta bin Luka,
Al-Tavhidi, and Al-Majridi were also all eminent men. A few details
will be given about the first seven of the names just mentioned.
Yakub-bin Ishak Al-Kindi, the philosopher of the Arabs, known in
Europe by the corrupted name of Alchendius, possessed an encyclopaedic
mind, and being himself a living encyclopaedia, he composed one of all
the sciences. He divided philosophy into three branches, the
mathematical, the physical, and the ethical. He declared the nullity
of alchemy, which Ibn Sina had again brought to honourable notice,
till the physician Abdul Latif declaimed against it. But Al-Kindi was
not sufficiently advanced to write against astrology, which is still
in full force all over the East even in our own times. Only one of his
works has as yet been published in Europe, and that treats on the
composition of medicines, though we possess the titles of not less
than two hundred and thirty-four works composed by him on a variety of
subjects. He died A.D. 861.
Abu Nasr Al-Farabi (Alfarabius), called by the Arabs a second
Aristotle, is generally considered to be the second Arab philosopher;
Avicenna, who always quotes him in his works, the third; the first
place being assigned to Al-Kindi. Al-Farabi studied Arabic (he was a
Turk by birth) and philosophy in Baghdad, where he attended the
lectures of Abu Bishr Matta bin Yunus, who possessed, and also
imparted to his pupils, the gift of expressing the deepest meanings in
the easiest words. From Baghdad he went to Harran, where Yuhanna bin
Khailan, the Christian philosopher, was teaching logic, and after his
return he made all the works of Aristotle his special study. It is
related that the following note was found inscribed in Al-Farabi's
handwriting on a copy of Aristotle's treatise on the soul: 'I have
read over this book two hundred times.' He also said that he had read
over Aristotle's 'Physics' forty times, and felt that he ought to read
it over again. Abul Kasim Said, of Cordova, says in his 'Classes of
Philosophers' that 'Al-Farabi led all the professors of Islam to the
right understanding of logic by unveiling and explaining its secrets,
as well as by considering all those points which Al-Kindi had
neglected, and by teaching the application of analogy to all occurring
cases.' In his enumeration and limitation of the sciences, Al-Farabi
embraced the whole system of knowledge as it then existed. He went to
Egypt, and afterwards to Damascus, where he died in A.D. 950. During
his residence at Damascus he was mostly to be found near the borders
of some rivulet, or in a shady garden; there he composed his works and
received the visits of his pupils. He was extremely abstemious, and
entirely indifferent to wealth and poverty. The list of his works on
philosophical and scientific subjects amount to sixty-one. Mr. Munk's
'Melanges de Philosophie Juive et Arabe' (Paris, 1859) contains good
articles on Al-Farabi and Al-Kindi.
Ibn Sina (Avicenna) was a great philosopher and physician. At the age
of ten years he had completed the study of the Koran in Bukhara, where
afterwards a certain Natili became his tutor, with whom he first
studied the 'Eisagoge' of Porphyry, and afterwards Euclid, and lastly
the 'Almagest' of Ptolemy. Natili then departed, and an ardent desire
to study medicine having taken possession of Ibn Sina, he commenced to
read medical books, which not being so difficult to understand as
mathematics and metaphysics, he made such rapid progress in them that
he soon became an excellent physician, and cured his patients by
treating them with well-approved remedies. He began also to study
jurisprudence before he was thirteen. At the age of eighteen he
entered the service of a prince of the Beni Saman dynasty, Nuh bin
Mansur, at Bukhara, a paralytic, who entertained many physicians at
his court, and Ibn Sina joined their number. There he composed his
'Collection,' in which he treated of all the sciences except
mathematics, and there also he wrote his book of 'The Acquirer and the
Acquired.' He then left Bukhara, and lived in various towns of
Khurasan, but never went further west, spending his whole life in the
countries beyond the Oxus, in Khwarizm and in Persia, although he
wrote in Arabic. It would be superfluous to follow all his changes of
fortune, but it may be mentioned that when he was the first physician
and vizier of Mezd-ud-daulah, a sultan of the Bowide dynasty, he was
twice deposed and put in irons. He also appears to have acted
treacherously towards Ala-ud-daulah, a prince of Ispahan, who was his
benefactor. He was four years in prison, but at last succeeded in
deceiving his guardians, and escaped. His dangerous travels, and the
depression of mind inseparable from reverses of fortune, however,
never interrupted his scientific pursuits. His taste for study and his
activity were such that, as he himself informs us, not a single day
passed in which he had not written fifty leaflets. The list of
manuscripts left by him, and scattered in various libraries of Europe,
is considerable, and though many of his works have been lost, some are
still in existence. The fatigues of his long journeys, and the
excesses of all kinds in which he indulged, abridged the life of this
celebrated scholar, who died in A.D. 1037, at the age of fifty-six, at
Hamadan, where the following epitaph adorns his tomb: 'The great
philosopher, the great physician, Ibn Sina, is dead. His books on
philosophy have not taught him the art of living well, nor his books
on medicine the art of living long.'
A brief notice must be given of the celebrated physician and
philosopher, Ali bin Ridhwan, who died A.D. 1067. He was such a
prodigy of precocious learning that he began to lecture on medicine
and philosophy at Cairo from his fourteenth year. He afterwards also
taught astronomy. At the age of thirty-two he had attained a great
reputation as a physician, and was a rich man at sixty. He left more
than one hundred books which he had composed, and he himself says: 'I
made abridgments of the chief philosophical works of the ancients, and
left in this manner five books on philology; ten on law; the medical
works of Hippocrates and Galen; the book of plants of Dioskorides; the
books of Rufus, Paulus, Hawi, and Razi; four books on agriculture and
drugs; four books for instruction in the 'Almagest' of Ptolemy, and an
introduction to the study of it, and to the square of Ptolemy; as also
to the works of Plato, Alexander, Themistios, and Al-Farabi. I
purchased all these books, no matter what they cost, and preserved
them in chests, although it would have been more profitable to have
sold them again rather than have kept them.' Ibn Batlan, a clever
physician, was a contemporary of Ibn Ridhwan, and travelled from
Baghdad to Egypt only for the purpose of making his acquaintance, but
the result does not appear to have been satisfactory to either party.
He died A.D. 1063, leaving a number of works on medical and other
Abu Hamid Al-Ghazali was born A.D. 1058. He was considered chiefly as
a lawyer and a mystic, but here he will be noticed chiefly as a
philosopher and the author of 'The Ruin of Philosophers,' noticed at
length by Haji Khalfa in his 'Encyclopaedical Dictionary,' under No.
3764. But Ghazali's most celebrated work is 'The Resuscitation of
Religious Sciences,' which is so permeated by the genius of Islam
that, according to the general opinion of scholars, the Muhammadan
religion, if it were to perish, might again be restored from this work
alone. Orthodox fanatics, nevertheless, attacked his works as being
schismatic, and they were even burnt in the Mugrib. He was born at Tus
(the modern Mashad), in Khurasan, and passed his life partly there,
also at Naisapur, Baghdad, Damascus, Egypt, and finally returned to
Tus, where he died A.D. 1111. His works are very numerous, and all of
them are instructive.
Ibn Bajah (known to Europeans under the name of Avempace) was a
philosoper and a poet of considerable celebrity, and a native of
Saragossa, in Spain. He was attacked by some people for his religious
opinions, and represented as an infidel and an atheist, professing the
doctrines held by the ancient sages and philosophers. Ibn Khallikan
defends Ibn Bajah, and says that these statements were much
exaggerated, but adds: 'God, however, knows best what his principles
were,' Abul Hassan Ali al-Imam, of Granada, was of opinion that Ibn
Bajah was the greatest Arab philosopher after Al-Farabi, and places
him higher than Ibn Sina and Al-Ghazali. He left numerous logical,
grammatical and political works, and died at Fez in A.D. 1138.
Averroes, whose full and correct name is Abul Walid Muhammad bin
Rashid, was a celebrated Arab scholar, born at Cordova A.D. 1126, and
the author of many writings. He taught in his native town philosophy
and medicine, two sciences which appeared for a long time to be
inseparable, and the vulgar considered those professing them to be of
almost supernatural attainments. The period of Averroes is that of the
decadence of Arab dominion in Spain, a period when this great nation
also lost the taste for sciences which it had brought to Europe.
Considering the prodigious number of works composed by Averroes, who
filled at the same time the offices of Imam and Kadi, his entire life
must have been one of labour and meditation. He is the author of an
Arabic version of Aristotle, but it is not the first which existed in
that language, as some of his biographers assert, because this work
had been produced already at Baghdad during the brilliant Khalifate of
Mamun. There are various manuscripts of Averroes extant treating on
physics, pure mathematics, astronomy and astrology, from which it
would appear that, in spite of their encyclopaedic attainments, the
celebrated men of these times still believed in some popular errors.
Science was at that time surrounded by a kind of superstitious halo of
respect, to which Averroes, like so many others, is indebted for a
good part of his renown. He died A.D. 1198, in the city of Morocco;
his corpse was transferred to Cordova and there interred.
Medical science had already, under the second Khalif of the house of
Abbas (A.D. 754-775), enjoyed the highest honours, which it ever
afterwards retained. Great physicians were brought from the Persian
hospital of Jondshapur, and between the years A.D. 750 and 850 the
number of physicians was considerable, but only the most celebrated
will be noticed.
Georgios (Jorjis) bin Bakhtyeshun, of Jondshapur, lived at the
commencement of the Abbaside dynasty, and was the author of the book
of Pandects. When Al-Mansur was building the city of Baghdad he
suffered from pains in his stomach and from impotency, and Georgios,
the director of the medical college at Jondshapur, was recommended to
him as the most skilled physician of the time. Accordingly, the Khalif
directed Georgios and two of his pupils, Ibrahim and Serjis, to come
to Baghdad, appointing Gabriel (Jebrayl), the son of Georgios, as
director of the hospital in the place of his father. Georgios cured
Al-Mansur, and received from him three thousand ducats for his reward,
along with a beautiful slave girl; the latter was, however, returned
to the Khalif with thanks, and the remark that, 'being a Christian, he
could not keep more than one wife.' From that moment the physician
attained free access to the harem, and enjoyed high favour with the
Khalif, who greatly pressed him in A.D. 770 to make a profession of
Islam; but this he refused to do, and died shortly afterwards, in A.D.
771. Before his death Georgios asked to be allowed to return to
Jondshapur, to be buried there with his ancestors. Al-Mansur said,
'Fear God, and I guarantee you paradise.' Georgios replied, 'I am
satisfied to be with my ancestors, be it in paradise or be it in
hell.' The Khalif laughed, allowed him to return home, and presented
him with ten thousand pieces of gold for his travelling, expenses.
Gabriel (Jebrayl), the son of the above-named Georgios (Jorjis), was
also a celebrated physician. He enjoyed great favour with
Harun-ar-Rashid, who used to declare that he would not refuse him
anything. When, however, this Khalif fell ill at Tus, and asked Gabriel
for his opinion, the latter replied that if Harun had followed his
advice to be moderate in sexual pleasure, he would not have been
attacked by the disease. For this reply he was thrown into prison, and
his life was saved only by the chamberlain Rabi'i, who was very fond of
him. Amin, the son and successor of Rashid, followed the advice of
Gabriel more than his father did, and would not eat or drink anything
without his doctor's sanction. In A.D. 817 Gabriel cured Sehl bin
Hasan, who recommended him to Mamun; but Michael, the son-in-law of
Gabriel, was his body physician. In A.D. 825 Mamun fell sick, and, as
all the medicines of Michael were of no use, Isa, the brother of Mamun,
advised him to get himself treated by Gabriel, who had known him from
boyhood; but Abu Ishak, the other brother of Mamun, called in Yahya
bin Maseweih, and when he could do nothing, then Mamun sent for
Gabriel, who restored him to health in three days, and was handsomely
rewarded in consequence. When Mamun marched, in A.D. 828, against the
Byzantines, Gabriel fell sick and died, whereon the Khalif took
Gabriel's son with him on the campaign, he being also an intelligent
and skilled physician.
The works of Gabriel are:
(1) A treatise on food and drink, dedicated to Mamun.
(2) An introduction to logic.
(3) Extracts from medical Pandects.
(4) A book on fumigatories.
Isa bin Musa, who flourished about A.D. 833, was also one of the most
distinguished physicians of the period. He left the following works:
(1) Book on the forces of alimentary substances.
(2) A treatise for a person who has no access
to a physician.
(3) Questions concerning derivations and races.
(4) Book of dreams, indicating why medicines
should not be given to pregnant women.
(5) Book of the remedies mentioned by Hippocrates
in his treatise on bleeding and cupping.
(6) Dissertation on the use of baths.
Without giving any details about Maseweih, Yahya bin Maseweih, Honein
bin Ishak, and Kosta bin Luka, all of whom were distinguished for
medical knowledge, some fuller mention must be made of Abu Bakr
Ar-Razi (Rhases), who has been described as 'the ablest physician of
that age and the most distinguished; a perfect master of the art of
medicine, skilled in its practice, and thoroughly grounded in its
principles and rules.' He composed a number of useful works on
medicine, and some of his sayings have been handed down to us, and are
still worthy of record, such as:
(1) When you can cure by a regimen, avoid
having recourse to medicine.
(2) When you can effect a cure with a simple
medicine, avoid employing a compound one.
(3) With a learned physician and an obedient
patient sickness soon disappears.
(4) Treat an incipient malady with remedies
which will not prostrate the strength.
Till the end of his life he continued at the head of his profession,
finally lost his sight, and died in A.D. 923. A new and much improved
edition of Razi's 'Treatise on the Small-Pox and Measles' was
published in London in A.D. 1848 by Dr. Greenhill, and an article on
him will also be found in Wuestenfeld's 'History of the Arabian
Poetry flourished to a very great extent during the reigns of the
early Abbaside Khalifs, and, as all Arab _litterateurs_ were more or
less poets and writers of verses, it is somewhat difficult to select
the most celebrated.
The first collection of Arabic poems was compiled by Al-Mofadhdhal in
the work called after him--'Mofadhdhaliat.' He was followed by Abu Amr
as Shaibani, by Abu Zaid bin A'us, Ibn-as Sikkit, Muhammad bin Habib,
Abu Hatim es Sejastani, and Abu Othman al Mazini. Abu Tammam and
Al-Bohtori, the collectors of the two Hamasas, are considered to be the
two greatest poets of the third century of the Hijrah (A.D. 816-913).
And it may here be observed that in the great bibliographical
dictionary of Haji Khalfa, who enumerates seven Hamasas, the names of
Ibn-ul Marzaban and of Ibn Demash, each of whom composed one, are not
Zukkari made himself a reputation by editing several of the
Mua'llakat, as also the poems of the great pre-Islamite bards,
Al-Aasha and Al-Kama, whilst Abu Bakr as Sauli likewise acquired great
merit by publishing ten of the master-works of Arabic poetry.
From the many poets of this period some of the most celebrated have
been selected--viz., Farazdak, Jarir, Al-Akhtal, Abul-Atahya, Bashshar
bin Burd, Abu Nuwas, Abu Tammam, Al-Otbi, Al-Bohtori, Al-Mutanabbi,
and An-Nami, and a few biographical details about them will be given,
as also some remarks about Al-Mofadhdhal, the first collector and
compiler of Arab poetry, and of Abul Faraj-Al-Ispahani, the collector
of the great anthology called 'Kitab-ul-Aghani,' or the Book of Songs.
Jarir and Al-Farazdak were two very celebrated poets, who lived at the
same time and died in the same year, A.D. 728-729. Ibn Khallikan has
given their lives at considerable length, and says that 'Jarir was in
the habit of making satires on Al-Farazdak, who retorted in the same
manner, and they composed parodies on each other's poems.' Jarir
always used to say that the same demon inspired them both, and
consequently each knew what the other would say. On all occasions they
seem to have been excessively rude in verse to each other, and did not
at all mind about having recourse to actual insult. The lives of
Al-Akhtal, Al-Farazdak, and Jarir, translated from the 'Kitab-ul-Aghani'
and other sources, have been given by Mr. Caussin de Perceval in the
_Journal Asiatique_ for the year 1834. Prom this it would appear that
the verses of these three poets were much discussed during their
lifetime, and often compared with the productions of the other poets
who followed them. Some writers are in favour of one and some of the
other, but the general opinion of them is that their effusions
resembled the Arab poetry written before the period of Muhammad much
more than any poetry that was written during the reign of the
Abbasides. Al-Akhtal belonged to a Christian tribe of Arabs, and was
much patronized by the Omaiyide Khalif Abdul Malik (A.D. 684-705), in
whose glory and honour he composed many verses, and, indeed, such good
ones, that Harun-ar-Rashid used to say no poet had ever said so much
in praise of the Abbasides as he (Akhtal) had written in praise of the
Omaiyides. He died at an advanced age some years before Jarir and
Farazdak, who were much younger men, but the exact year of his death
does not appear to have been recorded.
The blind Bashshar bin Burd and Abul-Atahya were two of the principal
poets who flourished in the first ages of Islamism, and ranked in the
highest class among the versifiers of that period. The former was put
to death, or rather beaten, by the orders of the Khalif Al-Mahdi, for
certain satirical verses which the poet is said to have written, and
from the effects of these strokes of a whip he died in A.D. 783.
Abul-Atahya wrote many verses on ascetic subjects, and all his amatory
pieces were composed in honour and praise of Otba, a female slave
belonging to the Khalif Al-Mahdi, and to whom he appears to have been
devotedly attached. He was born A.D. 747, and died A.D. 826.
Abu Nuwas was a poet of great celebrity. His father, Hani, was a
soldier in the army of Marwan II., the last Omaiyide Khalif, and the
poet was born in A.D. 762, some say in Damascus, others at Busra, and
others at Al-Ahwaz. His mother apprenticed him to a grocer, and the
boy became acquainted with the poet Abu Osama, who discovered his
talent, and induced him to accompany him to Baghdad. There Abu Nuwas
afterwards became celebrated as one of the chief bards at the court of
the Khalif, and his most famous Kasida is that which he composed in
praise of Amin, the son of Harun-ar-Rashid. According to the critics
of his time, he was the greatest poet in Islam, as Amriolkais had been
before that period. When Merzeban was asked which he considered the
greater poet, Abu Nuwas or Rakashi, he replied, 'A curse of Abu Nuwas
in hell contains more poetry than a laudation of Rakashi's in
paradise.' He was a favourite of Amin, whom his brother Mamun
reproached for associating with him, because Abu Nuwas enjoyed the
reputation of being the greatest libertine of all the poets.
Sulaiman, the son of Al-Mansur, complained to the Khalif Amin that Abu
Nuwas had insulted him with lampoons, and desired him to be punished
with death; but Amin replied: 'Dear uncle, how can I order a man to be
killed who has praised me in such beautiful verses?' and thereupon
Mamun, the son of Harun, states that he asked the great critic Yakut
bin Sikkit to what poet he gave the preference. He replied: 'Among the
pre-Islamite ones to Amriolkais and Al-Aasha, among the older Muslim
poets to Jarir and Farazdak, and among the more recent to Abu Nuwas.'
Otbi, having been asked who was the greatest poet, replied; 'According
to the opinion of the people, Amriolkais, but according to mine, Abu
Al-Khasib, the chief of the revenue office in Egypt, once asked Abu
Nuwas from what family he came. 'My talents,' replied he, 'stand me
instead of noble birth,' and no further questions were asked him. He
was a freethinker, who joked about the precepts of Islam. Once a Sunni
and a Rafidhi desired him to be the umpire in their quarrel, as to who
occupied the most exalted position after the Prophet. He said: 'A
certain Yazid,' and on their asking who this Yazid might be, he
replied: 'An excellent fellow, who presents me with a thousand dirhems
every year.' He used to say that the wine of this world is better than
that of the next; and, being asked for the reason, replied: 'This is a
sample of the wine of paradise, and for a sample the best is always
Ismail bin Nubakht said: 'I never saw a man of more extensive learning
than Abu Nuwas, nor one who, with a memory so richly furnished,
possessed so few books. After his decease we searched his house, and
could only find one book-cover containing a quire of paper, in which
was a collection of rare expressions and grammatical observations.'
He died on the same day as the mystic Al-Kerkhi, whose corpse was
accompanied to the grave by more than three hundred persons, but that
of Abu Nuwas by not one. When, however, one of the three hundred
exclaimed: 'Was not Abu Nuwas a Muslim? And why do none of the Muslims
recite the funeral prayer over his body? all the three hundred who had
assisted at the interment of Kerkhi recited the prayer also over the
corpse of Abu Nuwas.
He is considered to have been an equally good narrator, scholar, and
poet; and, being asked by Sulaiman bin Sehl what species of poetry he
thought to be the best, replied: 'There are no poems on wine equal to
my own, and to my amatory compositions all others must yield,' He used
to boast that he knew by heart the poems of sixty poetesses, and among
them those of Khansa and Leila, as also seven hundred Arjuzat, or
poems in unshackled metre, by men. He said that he could compose
nothing except when he was in a good humour, and in a shady garden. He
often began a Kasida, put it away for several days, and then took it
up again to rescind much of it.
According to Abu Amr, the three greatest poets in the description of
wine are Aasha, Akhtal, and Abu Nuwas. Abu Hatim al Mekki often said
that the deep meanings of thoughts were concealed underground until
Abu Nuwas dug them out.
His end was tragic. Zonbor, the secretary, and Abu Nuwas were in the
habit of composing lampoons against each other; whereon the former
conceived the idea of propagating a satire against Ali, the son-in-law
of the Prophet, in the name of Abu Nuwas; and this became the cause of
his death. In an already half-drunken circle Zonbor recited the satire
on Ali as the work of Abu Nuwas; on which all fell upon the poet,
ripped open his belly, and pulled his entrails about till he expired.
Others assert that Ismail bin Abu Sehl administered a poisonous potion
to Abu Nuwas, because he had composed a lampoon against him; but its
operation was so slow that he died only four months after he had drunk
it. His death took place at Baghdad in A.D. 810.
Al-Otbi was a poet of great celebrity, and taught traditions to the
people of Baghdad; but was more generally noted for drinking wine and
composing love verses about his beloved Otba. Being of the tribe of
Koraish, and of the family of Omaya, he and his father held a high
rank, and were regarded as accomplished scholars and elegant speakers,
Otbi both composed and collected poems. One of his verses has now
acquired the force of a proverb: 'When Sulaima saw me turn my eyes
away--and I turn my glances away from all who resemble her--she said:
"I once saw thee mad with love;" and I replied: "Youth is a madness of
which old age is the cure."' He died in A.D. 842.
Abu Tammam Habib, the celebrated poet, according to Ibn Khallikan,
'surpassed all his contemporaries in the purity of his style, the
merit of his poetry, and his excellent manner of treating a subject.
He is the author of a Hamasa, a compilation which is a standing proof
of his great talents, solid information, and good taste in making a
selection.' He wrote several other works connected with poets and
poetry, composed many Kasidas, and knew by heart, it is said, fourteen
thousand verses of that class of compositions called Rajaz, or free
metre. The poetry of Abu Tammam was put in order for the first time by
Abu Bakr as Sauli, who arranged it alphabetically, according to the
rhymes, and then Abul Faraj Ali bin Husain Al-Ispahani classed it
according to the subjects. He died at Mosul A.D. 845, about forty
years of age, and was buried there; but his verses have survived, and
rendered him one of the immortals.
The mantle of the poet Abu Tammam appears to have fallen on Abu Abada
Al-Bohtori, who was born in A.D. 821, and, like his predecessor, is
also the author of a Hamasa. He appears to have received his first
encouragement to persevere as a poet from Abu Tammam, and later on he
says: 'I recited to Abu Tammam a poem which I had composed in honour
of one of the Humaid family, and by which I gained a large sum of
money. When I finished he exclaimed: "Very good! You shall be the
prince of poets when I am no more." These words gave me more pleasure
than all the wealth which I had collected.' On being asked whether he
or Abu Tammam was the better poet, Al-Bohtori replied: 'His best
pieces surpass the best of mine, and my worst are better than the
worst of his,' Abul-Ala al Maarri, a great philologist and poet (born
in A.D. 973, died A.D. 1057), was asked which was the best poet of the
three, Abu Tammam, Al-Bohtori, or Al-Mutanabbi; he replied that two of
them were moralists, and that Bohtori was the poet. He died A.D. 897.
His poems were not arranged in order till Abu Bakr as Sauli collected
them and classed them alphabetically by their rhymes, while Abul Faraj
Ali bin Husain Al-Ispahani collected them also, and arranged them
according to their subjects. A copy of his 'Diwan' is in the
Bibliotheque Nationale in Paris.
Al Mutanabbi, or the pretended prophet, a _role_ to which he aspired,
but in which he did not succeed, comes next to the two great
poets--Abu Tammam and Al-Bohtori--though some critics consider him to
be superior to them. He is, however, generally acknowledged to be a
great lyric poet, while many of his best Kasidas refer to the exploits
of Saif ad Dawlah, a prince of the Benou Hamdan dynasty in Syria. After
leaving him he went to Egypt, then to Persia, Baghdad, and finally
Kufa, his native place, near which he was killed in a fight in A.D.
965. It is stated that in this contest Mutanabbi, seeing himself
vanquished, was taking to flight, when his slave said to him, 'Let it
never be said that you fled from a fight, you who are the author of
this verse: "The horse, and the night, and the desert know me (well);
the sword also, and the lance, and paper and the pen."'
Upon this he turned back and fought till he was slain, along with his
son and his slave. His 'Diwan,' or collection of poems, is well known,
and much read in our times, even in India. It has been translated into
An-Nami was one of the ablest and most talented poets of his time, but
inferior to Mutanabbi, with whom he had some encounters and contests
in reciting extemporary verses when they were at the court of Saif ad
Dawlah together. He died A.D. 1008 at Aleppo, aged ninety.
Abul-Abbas Al-Mofadhdhal, the collector of the celebrated selection of
Arabic poems called the 'Mofadhdhaliat,' which served as a model for
the Hamasas, was the first editor of the seven suspended poems, the
Mua'llakat, and also one of the earliest of the Arab philologists. He
was a native of Kufa, and adhered to the faction of Ibrahim bin
Abdallah; who rebelled in A.D. 761 against Al-Mansur, the second
Abbaside Khalif. Al-Mansur, however, pardoned Al-Mofadhdhal, and
attached him to the household of his son, Al-Mahdi, by whose orders
Mofadhdhal made a collection of the most celebrated longer poems of
the Arabs, one hundred and twenty-eight in number, under the title of
the Mofadhdhaliat. This, the oldest anthology of Arabian poets, was
first commented upon by his disciple, Al-Aarabi; then two hundred
years later by the two great philologists and anthologists, Al-Anbari
and An-Nahas; by Merzuk; and lastly by Tibrizi, who is sufficiently
known in Europe as the editor and commentator of the Hamasa, published
by Freytag with a Latin translation. Mofadhdhal supported himself as a
copyist of the Koran, and spent the last portion of his life in
mosques doing penance for the satires which he had composed against
various individuals. His other works were a book of proverbs, a
treatise on prosody, another on the ideas usually expressed in poetry,
and a vocabulary. He was held to be of the first authority as a
philologist, a genealogist, and a relator of the poems and battle-lays
of the desert Arabs. He died A.D. 784.
Abul Faraj Ali bin Husain Al-Ispahani is the collector of the great
anthology called 'Kitab-ul-Aghani' (the Book of Songs). This work,
which surpasses all former ones of this name, he produced after a
labour of forty years, and presented it to Saif ad Dawlah, who gave
him a thousand pieces of gold for it, but excused himself at the same
time for the smallness of this honorarium. In spite of his other
works, and the long string of names given him by Ibn Khallikan, he is
best known as Al-Ispahani, and as the author of the Aghani. His family
inhabited Ispahan, but he passed his early youth in Baghdad, and
became the most distinguished scholar and most eminent author of that
city. He was born A.D. 897, and died A.D. 967, in which year also died
the great scholar Kali, and the three greatest of his patrons, namely,
Saif ad Dawlah, the sovereign of the Benou Hamdan in Syria; Moiz ud
Dawlah, the sovereign of the Benou Bujeh in Irak; and Kafur, who
governed Egypt in the name of the Akhsid dynasty. The 'Book of Songs,'
notwithstanding its title, is an important biographical dictionary,
treating of grammar, history and science, as well as of poetry.
Mention can here be made of Abu Muhammad Kassim Al-Hariri, who was one
of the ablest writers of his time, and the author of the 'Makamat
Hariri,' a work consisting of fifty oratorical, poetical, moral,
encomiastic and satirical discourses, supposed to have been spoken or
read in public assemblies. Poets, historians, grammarians and
lexicographers look upon the 'Makamat' (Assemblies or Seances) as the
highest authority, and next to the Koran, as far at least as language
is concerned. It contains a large portion of the language spoken by
the Arabs of the desert, such as its idioms, its proverbs, and its
subtle delicacies of expression; and, according to Ibn Khallikan, any
person who acquires a sufficient acquaintance with this book to
understand it rightly, will be led to acknowledge the eminent merit of
the author, his extensive information, and his vast abilities. A great
number of persons have commented on the 'Makamat,' some in long and
others in short treatises, and many consider it to be the most
elegantly written, and the most amusing, work in the Arabic language.
Hariri was born A.D. 1054, and died at Busra A.D. 1122. He left some
other good works in the shape of treatises, epistles, and a great
number of poetical pieces, besides those contained in his 'Makamat.'
There are two translations of the 'Makamat' into English. One by the
Reverend Theodore Preston, printed under the patronage of the Oriental
Translation Fund, London, 1850. It contains only twenty of the fifty
pieces in verse, with copious notes, while an epitome of the remaining
thirty pieces is given at the end of the book. The other by the late
Mr. Chennery, which ends with the twenty-sixth assembly or seance. The
whole work was edited in Arabic, with a select commentary upon it in
French, by Baron Silvestre de Sacy, and this was reprinted in 1847.
Ruckert also made a very free translation of it in German verse, which
reached a third edition in 1844, but this differs widely from the
contents of the original, though it is said to be more pleasing and
attractive to a general reader.
After the Muslim legal sciences had been established upon the fourfold
foundations of the Koran, tradition, general consent of communities,
and the analogies derived therefrom, then philosophy and mathematics
began to flourish by translations made either directly from the Greek
or through Syriac and Persian.
In former times, during the reign of Nausherwan, a Persian monarch of
great renown (A.D. 530-578), there was some intercourse between
Persian and Byzantine philosophers; several books on logic and
medicine had been translated from Greek into Persian, and from these
Abdullah Ibn Al-Mukaffa made translations into Arabic. The literary
career of Ibn Al-Mukaffa, who presumed to vie with the eloquence of
the Koran, and was considered to be a freethinker, and eventually
slain, falls into the reign of Al-Mansur (A.D. 754-775), the second
Khalif. But Ibn Al-Mukaffa rendered such services to Arabian
literature, that a short sketch of his life will presently be given.
During the reign of Mansur (A.D. 754-775) Greek works were translated,
not yet from the original, but from the Persian. During the Khalifate
of his son, Mahdi (A.D. 775-785), Abd-Allah bin Hilal translated the
celebrated animal fables of Bidpay from Persian into Arabic, under the
title of 'Kalilah wa Dimnah,' and they were afterwards versified by
Selil bin Nubakht. In Persian they are known under several titles,
such as 'Kalilah wa Dimnah,' the 'Anwar-i Suheli,' and the 'Ayar
Danish,' and in Turkish as the 'Humayan-namah.'
Eight years before the seventh Khalif, Mamun (A.D. 812-833), ascended
the throne, many Greek and Syrian manuscripts had been collected in
Baghdad. These were all preserved there in the library, which was
called 'The House of Wisdom,' until Mamun began to utilize them by
means of translations. The Khalif appointed the scholars Al-Hajjaj, Ibn
Mattar, Ibn ul-Batrik, and Selma, to superintend the work, while the
three brothers, Muhammad, Ahmed, and Hasan, sons of the astronomer
Shakir, were directed to search for and to buy manuscripts. Mamun also
sent the two physicians, Yohanna and Kosta, into the Byzantine
dominions to bring manuscripts from thence to Baghdad. A new class of
scholars was then formed, in the shape of translators, who were
employed in translating works from the Greek, the Syriac, and the
Persian languages into Arabic. The translators from the Persian were
Musa and Yusuf, the two sons of Khalid, Hasan bin Sehl, and
afterwards, Al-Baladori; from the Sanscrit, Munkah the Indian; from
the Nabataean, Ibn Wahshiyah. Science became hereditary, as it were,
in the families of the most celebrated scholars; medical science in
the family of Bakhtyeshun; translations from Greek works in that of
Honein bin Ishak, the most famous of all translators, and a prolific
author besides. Maseweih and his son Yahya, Syriac Christians, were
both celebrated as physicians and translators of ancient Greek works
into Arabic; while Kosta bin Luka, who died in A.D. 932, was also one
of the most fertile translators from Greek into Arabic, and, being
born a Greek, he was able to correct the translations of Honein bin
Ishak and others.
The number of translators, which amounted to about one hundred, might
have been increased if Arab literature had further developed itself by
incorporating works from other languages; but, as such was not the
case, translators appeared very few and far between after the
literature had attained to its highest perfection, at the end of the
third century of the Hijrah (A.D. 913).
The celebrated Ibn Al-Mukaffa was one of the earliest and best
translators. His full name is Abd-Allah Ibn Al-Mukaffa, but before he
made his profession of Islam he bore that of Ruzbeh. He was a native
of Har, a town in the province of Fars, and first served as secretary
to Daud bin Hobeirah, and then to Isa bin Ali, the uncle of the two
first Khalifs of the house of Abbas. He was an excellent poet,
letter-writer, and orator, equally skilled in his mother-tongue, the
Persian, as in the Arabic language, from the former of which he left
the splendid translations of--
(1) 'The Khodanamah,' a legend.
(2) 'The Amirnamah,' or prince-book.
(3) 'Kalilah wa Dimnah.'
(5) 'Biography of Nausherwan.'
(6) 'The Great Book of Manners.'
(7) 'The Small Book of Manners or Good
(8) 'The Book of Epistles.'
So far the 'Fihrist'; what follows is from Ibn Khallikan. Ibn
Al-Mukaffa was the secretary and most confidential servant of Isa bin
Ali, with whom he dined the day before he made his public profession
of Islam. Having sat down, he began to eat and to mutter according to
the custom of the Magians. 'How,' said Isa, 'you mutter like the
Magians, though resolved to embrace Islamism!' to which Ibn Al-Mukaffa
replied that he did not wish to pass a single night without being of
some religion. In spite of his conversion, he was always suspected of
freethinking, like Muti bin Iyas and Yahya bin Zaad, and one day, when
Al-Jahiz, the philologist, made the remark that they were persons the
sincerity of whose religious sentiments was doubted, one of the
learned, on hearing this, said: 'How is it that Al-Jahiz forgets to
When Khalil the prosodist was one day asked his opinion about Ibn
Al-Mukaffa, he said, 'His learning is greater than his wit;' and the
latter, being asked the same question concerning Khalil, replied, 'His
wit is greater than his learning.' Being a favourite with the Khalif,
he took great liberties with Sofyan, the Governor of Busra, and
insulted the memory of his mother. One day Sulaiman and Isa, the
uncles of the Khalif Mansur, desired to obtain a letter of amnesty
from him for their brother Abd-Allah, and they instructed Ibn
Al-Mukaffa to compose one in the strongest terms, which he did, and
added to it the following clause, 'Should the Prince of the Believers
ever act treacherously towards his uncle Abd-Allah, then may he be
divorced from his wives, may his slaves be free, and may his subjects
be solved from obedience!' The Khalif's dignity was shocked, and he
ordered the writer of this letter of amnesty to be forthwith executed,
and the Governor of Busra, whom Ibn Al-Mukaffa had many times insulted,
very gladly undertook the duty. Al-Madaini narrates that when Ibn
Al-Mukaffa was brought before Sofyan, the latter asked him whether he
remembered the insults he had heaped upon his mother, and added, 'May
my mother really deserve those insults if I do not get you executed in
a manner hitherto unheard of!' He also recalled Ibn Al-Mukaffa's joke
about Sofyan's big nose, because he had one day asked the governor,
'How are you and your nose?' On another occasion, when the governor
remarked that he never had reason to repent keeping silence, Ibn
Al-Mukaffa replied, 'Dumbness becomes you; then why should you repent
of it.' Accordingly Sofyan ordered the members of Ibn Al-Mukaffa's body
to be chopped off, one after the other, and thrown into a burning
oven, into which, last of all, the trunk of his body was also thrown.
There are other accounts of his death, viz., that he was strangled in
a bath, or shut up in a privy. One opinion, however, generally
prevails, that the execution was not a public one. The date of it is
uncertain--A.D. 756, 759, and 760, are all given; but the victim was
only thirty-six years of age at the time.
A few remarks may be made about the support given to learning and men
of letters by the Omaiyide and Abbaside Khalifs, as also by those of
the Spanish or Western Khalifate.
The Omaiyide Khalifs, with their capital at Damascus, were generally
patrons of science, poetry, architecture, song, and music. But all
these branches of knowledge were at that time merely rudimental; and,
of the fourteen sovereigns of the dynasty, only five really deserve
the name of protectors of learning; and of these Abdul Malik (A.D.
684-705), and his son Walid I. (A.D. 705-715), were the most
During the period of their Khalifate there were not only male, but
also some female poets. All their poems are mostly short, and confined
to amatory, laudatory, or vituperative compositions, called forth by
the momentary circumstances in which the authors happened to be
placed. These pieces do not represent either deep thought or profound
wisdom, but they show the feelings of the people, and their state of
civilization at the time in question.
During this Khalifate were also produced the earliest germs of
stylistics, epistolography and mysticism, all of which were more fully
developed under the Abbasides. The originator of the first two was the
Katib Abd Al-Hamid, secretary to the last Omaiyide Khalif, and he is
designated in an old Arabic rhyme as 'the father of all secretaries.'
Epistolary writing, it was said, began with Abd Al-Hamid, and finished
with Ibn Al-Amid. As regards mysticism, the origin of its doctrines is
sometimes assigned to Oweis Al-Kareni, the Prophet's companion, who
disappeared mysteriously in A.D. 658. But mysticism and Sufism were
subsequently much developed by Muhi-uddin Muhammad, surnamed Ibn
Al-Arabi, a most voluminous writer on these subjects. He was born at
Murcia, in Spain, A.D. 1165, and after studying in that country, went
to the East, made the pilgrimage, visited Cairo and other cities, and
died at Damascus A.D. 1240. He is the author of many works, but the
most remarkable of them are 'Revelations obtained at Mecca' and
'Maxims of Wisdom set as Jewels.' Both Makkari the historian, and Von
Hammer Purgstall, in his history of Arabian literature from the
earliest times, give a long account of him.
Of the Khalifs of the house of Abbas, the second, third, fifth and
seventh, viz., Al-Mansur (A.D. 754-775), Al-Mahdi (A.D. 775-785),
Harun-ar-Rashid (A.D. 786-809), and Al-Mamun (A.D. 812-833) were the
most distinguished as patrons of art, science and literature. But
after the translation of the 'Arabian Nights' into European languages,
the name of Harun-ar-Rashid became the best known in Europe as the
representative of the most brilliant period of the Eastern Khalifate,
and as the great protector of Arabic literature.
Baghdad, the capital of the Abbasides, was founded by their second
Khalif, Al-Mansur, in A.D. 760, finished in four years, and raised to
a high degree of splendour by Harun-ar-Rashid. Originally it was
considered only as a great strategic point, and its garrisons were to
keep the surrounding country in subjection. Eventually it became the
centre of learning and civilization, and an Arab author wrote of it as
follows: 'Baghdad is certainly the capital of the world, and the mine
of every excellence. It is the city whose inhabitants have always been
the first to unfurl the banners of knowledge, and to raise the
standard of science; indeed, their subtlety in all branches of
learning, their gentle manners and amiable disposition, noble bearing,
acuteness, wit, penetration and talent are deservedly praised.'
Baghdad, at the beginning of the ninth century of the Christian era,
was the centre of all that was grand and brilliant in the Muhammadan
world. Art and commerce, literature and science, were cultivated to a
high degree, and the luxury and extravagance of court life exceeded
almost the imagination of temperate European minds.
Everything curious, romantic and wonderful, narrated in the 'Nights'
is connected with Harun-ar-Rashid's name, or supposed to have happened
in his reign. Thus, his vizier, Jaafar, the Barmekide, the
superintendent of his harem, Mesrur, and his spouse, Zobeida, were
first made known to novel-readers, and their importance as historical
personages were duly appreciated afterwards, when Erpenius, Pococke,
Herbelot, and Reiske elucidated the history of the Khalifate by
translating the works of the Arab chroniclers Abul-Faraj, Al-Makin,
and Abul-feda. Later on still further information was made public
about the translations made from Greek and Syriac into Arabic during
his reign, as also concerning his position, not only as a lover of
tales, but as a promoter of jurisprudence, a patron of the medical and
mathematical sciences, and a builder of magnificent and useful
edifices. His court was also well attended by poets and singers.
Harun was not, indeed, the first prince who made arrangements for
translations from the Greek and the Syriac. In this he had been
preceded, as already mentioned, by the Omaiyide prince, Khalid, the
alchemist. But during the reign of Harun the business of translation
was carried on to a much greater extent than it was under his
predecessors, the Khalifs Mansur and Mahdi, during whose time
translations were undertaken from Greek into Syriac, from Indian
(Sanscrit) into Persian, but not yet into Arabic. The translators were
mostly Christians and Jews. Theophilos of Edessa, the Maronite
translator of Homer and of other Greek classics into Syriac, was an
astronomer and an historian. Both he and the physician Georgios, son
of Bakhtyeshun, from the university of Jondshapur, were Christians.
Nubakht, the astronomer of the Khalif Mansur, was a Magian
(Zoroastrian), Yahya bin Maseweih, Harun's physician, translated
medical works. Hajaj bin Yusuf bin Matta dedicated his first edition
of the elements of Euclid to Harun, and the second to Mamun.
As the family of the Barmekides played an important part, not only in
politics, but also in literature, until its chief members were
annihilated by Harun's orders, a brief notice of them may here be
Khalid bin Barmek was the son of a priest at the fire temple of
Nevbehar in Balkh, and became in course of time vizier of the first
Abbaside Khalif, and was retained in that office by the second Khalif,
Al-Mansur, and by the third, Al-Mahdi. He died A.D. 780.
Yahya, the son of Khalid, not only himself became the vizier of Harun,
but also his two sons, Fadhl and Jaafar. Yahya was very liberal, and
gave away sometimes considerable sums of money for very small
services, or, indeed, for no service at all. After his son Jaafar had
been executed, Yahya was thrown into prison, along with his other son,
Fadhl, at Old Rakka, where he died in A.D. 805, at the age of seventy
Fadhl, the son of Yahya, was more liberal but less eloquent than his
brother Jaafar. Harun esteemed the two brothers so highly that he
entrusted his son Muhammad to the care of Fadhl, and his son Mamun to
the care of Jaafar. Afterwards he made Jaafar his vizier, and sent
Fadhl to be Governor of Khurasan. There Fadhl built mosques,
reservoirs of water and caravanserais, augmented the army, and
attracted numbers of emigrants to the country, whereby he gained the
approval of Harun, who ordered his poets to sing his praises. After
the execution of Jaafar, Harun took Yahya, with his son Fadhl and all
the Barmekides, to Rakka, giving Yahya the option to go where he
liked; but he preferred to be imprisoned with his son in Rakka. There
Fadhl died in A.D. 809, and when Harun was informed of his death, he
said: 'My own is not far,' and died a few months afterwards in Tus,
the modern Mashad. The death of Fadhl, as a generous patron, was
bewailed by several poets, such as Abul Hojna, Otbi, Abu Nuwas, and
others. Fadhl was also notable for his filial piety, and when the use
of cold water injured the health of his father whilst they were in
prison, he used to warm the water by placing a pot of it on his own
Jaafar (the brother of Fadhl and a son of Yahya), who was slain A.D.
802, is to be mentioned here, not for his tragic fate, which is well
known, but rather for his literary attainments, especially his oratory
and his style, in both of which he excelled. From his long biography,
written by Ibn Khallikan, there will be given here only some extracts
relating to science and literature. He was a great master of speech,
and expressed his thoughts with much elegance. In one night he
endorsed more than a thousand petitions addressed to the Khalif with
his decisions, all of which were in perfect concordance with the law.
His instructor in jurisprudence had been Abu Yusuf the Hanifite, whom
his father Yahya had appointed to teach him. The favour enjoyed by
Jaafar with Harun-ar-Rashid was so great that this Khalif caused one
robe to be made with two separate collars, which they both wore at the
same time. Ibn Khallikan narrates the traditions relating to the fall
of Jaafar and his family; the one refers to his amours with Abbasa,
the sister of Harun, and to the birth of a child; the other to the
escape of a member of Ali's family entrusted to Jaafar's guardianship
by Harun. The true cause was probably the Khalifs envy of the power,
wealth, and generosity of the Barmekides, along with the backbitings
of their enemies. Jaafar was slain at Al-Omr in the district of
Al-Anbar, his head and the trunk of his body were set up opposite to
each other on the two sides of the bridge of Baghdad, and his death
was lamented by various poets.
After Mamun (A.D. 812-833) the most intellectual Khalif appears to
have been Radhi-billah (A.D. 934-940). His poems were collected in a
Diwan. He was the last Khalif who presided not only over the
Government as a sovereign, but also over the pulpit as Imam; indeed,
he may be said to be the terminal point of the power, brilliancy and
independence of the house of Abbas, which henceforth gradually
declined till its final extinction with the conquest of Baghdad by the
Mughals in A.D. 1258.
The great chess-player, Abu-bakr as Sauli, bears witness, in Masudi's
'Meadows of Gold,' to the great accomplishments of Radhi-billah, and
to his love of the sciences. Of games, chess and nerd flourished
during his reign, and although the perfection of song and of
lute-playing had already passed away, singers and musicians are still
mentioned. Of the amusements of the court, hunting appears to have
flourished most, and the learned poet Koshajim, who wrote on the game
of nerd, also left instructive poems on the chase. Radhi-billah
appears to have been fond of books of travel and of natural history,
and of the society of men of letters and of science, and liked
listening to recitals on the history, politics, and glory of the old
[Footnote 4: Nerd.--This game is mentioned as early as the
Shah-Namah, the author of which, Firdausi, was of opinion
that it is of genuine Persian, and not of Indian origin,
like chess, but this assertion is not necessarily correct.
Hyde has described the game in his 'Historia Nerdiludii,'
and it resembles somewhat the German puff and triktrak, and
the English backgammon. It is played on a board divided into
black-and-white compartments, with a black and a white house
in the centre. The moves are made according to the numbers
that come up on the throw of two dice.]
Of the Spanish Khalifs, mention only will be made of the ninth
sovereign of the Benou Omaiyide dynasty in Andalusia, viz., Hakim II.,
who died A.D. 976. Among the five Arab rulers of Spain--viz., three
Abd-ar-Rahmans and two Hakims--who have acquired everlasting fame in
history as special friends of science and patrons of learned men,
Abd-ar-Rahman III. and Hakim II. are the greatest and most prominent.
They stand in the Arab literary history of the West as high as Harun
and his son Mamun do in the history of the literature of the East. As
Mamun was the greatest of the Benou Abbas Khalifs of Baghdad who
promoted science and art, so Hakim II. was the greatest of the Benou
Omaiyides in Cordova. From his earliest youth he had received a most
careful scientific education, and applied his energies to study, as he
could not devote them to public affairs on account of the long
duration of his father's reign, from A.D. 912 to 961. Hakim's father,
Abd-ar-Rahman III., invited the learned Abu Ali Ismail Al Kali, the
philologist and author, from the court of Baghdad, where he enjoyed
the greatest consideration with the Khalif Mutwakkil, to Cordova, and
entrusted him with the education of his son, who, later on, composed a
Diwan (collection of poems), divided into twenty parts, bearing, like
the Surahs, or Chapters of the Koran, the most sublime objects of
nature as titles, such as 'Heaven,' 'the Stars,' 'the Dawn,' 'the
Night,' etc. Hakim pursued his studies under Kali for twenty years,
with as much pleasure as advantage, and after ascending the throne,
science and art still remained his companions. When his father died,
and he assumed the Government, he led the funeral procession,
surrounded by his Andalusian, Slavonic, and Mograbin body-guard, and
interred the corpse with the greatest pomp in the mausoleum of Rozafa,
and after that accepted the homage of his Viziers, Amirs, Kayids, and
Kadis. Astrologers and poets heralded at Cordova and in the whole of
Andalusia the continuation of the father's prosperous reign by his
son, and spoke the truth this time.
Hakim, who had already as a youth been fond of books, now, when he
became sovereign, fully satisfied this predilection, which had grown
to be a passion. He spared neither trouble nor expense in collecting
in his Merwan palace the rarest and most costly books in every branch
of science from all countries. He sent special commissioners to Egypt,
Syria, Irak, and Persia to purchase books. At Baghdad, Muhammad bin
Turkhan was charged with the business of purchasing books, or getting
them copied, for which purpose he had an establishment of
calligraphers and stenographers; because of some books beautiful, and
of others rapidly made, copies were required. He procured all the
genealogies, all the histories, and all the poems of the Arabs; all
works on law and jurisprudence, on grammar, rhetoric, philosophy,
philology, mathematics, astronomy, arithmetic and geography, composed
in Arabic. Thus the library of the Merwan palace became not only the
richest in Islam, but also the best arranged, by the care which he
bestowed on it. The catalogue consisted of forty-four fascicles, each
of fifty leaves, so that the whole constituted a volume of two
thousand two hundred leaves, two-fifths of which were filled with
titles of poetical works only. In this catalogue the titles of the
books were inserted, with the names of their authors, their descent,
birth-place, the year of their birth and of their decease, in the most
accurate manner, to serve as a model for other libraries, of which
Spain contained so many. This library alone is said to have consisted
of six hundred thousand volumes, a number never surpassed by any
earlier or later libraries in Islam.
To his two brothers, who loved the sciences as ardently as himself,
Hakim entrusted the care of the libraries, and of public instruction,
appointing Abdul Latif to be the chief librarian, and another man to
be the director of studies. He kept up intercourse with the great
scholars of the East and of the West, with sundry persons in Syria,
with learned men in Egypt, and with Abul Faraj Al-Ispahani (author of
the great anthology 'Kitab-ul-Aghani') in Irak, giving houses and
salaries to those who chose to reside at his court.
A few words must be said about the establishment of places of learning
which were celebrated at the time. The first university, in the sense
in which such an institution is at present understood, was flourishing
in Syria long before any seat of learning of this kind had been
established in Europe; and there was another in Egypt. The first
institution was called 'The Society of the Brethren of Purity,' and
the second (opened at Cairo on the 24th May, A.D. 1005) was founded by
Al-Hakim-bramrillah, and bore the name of Dar-ul Hikinat, or Abode of
Wisdom. It was under this same name that the library of the Khalifs
was formerly known at Baghdad. Later on the great vizier Nizam-ul-Mulk
founded a high school at Baghdad, in A.D. 1066. It was not the first
that had been established in Islam, but it eclipsed all others of the
kind by the abilities of the professors who worked there, viz., the
Imam Abu Ishak Shirazi, Al-Ghazali, and others. With the Society of
the Brethren of Purity, mentioned above, there were two men closely
connected, viz., Al-Tavhidi, who died A.D. 985, and Al-Majridi, who
died A.D. 1004, the former in the East, the latter in the West, and
both of them are deserving of the general name of philosopher. So much
for the Eastern Khalifates. As regards the Western Khalifate, still
greater attention was paid to education and learning there. The
schools and lectures were attended by many Europeans, who were not,
perhaps, sufficiently grateful to the Arabs for keeping up a progress
in literature and science while Europe itself was struggling for
emancipation from the dark ages which followed the higher cultures of
Greece and of Rome.
From the fall of Baghdad, in A.D. 1258, to the present time.
The conquest of Baghdad by the Mughals is a most remarkable period,
not only in the literature, but also in the history, of the Arabs. It
marks the final extinction of the Abbaside dynasty, from whom the
ancient power and glory had vanished to such a degree that the
authority of the Khalifs may almost literally be said to have been
confined to the city only. Halaku Khan, the brother of the grand Khan
Kubilai, and grandson of Jenghiz Khan, took and sacked Baghdad,
keeping the Khalif imprisoned for some time, but slaying him at last,
with his sons and several thousand Abbasides. Al-Mustaa'sim was the
thirty-seventh and last Khalif of the house of Abbas, which had
reigned over five hundred years, and was now extinguished.
Halaku Khan attacked Baghdad by the advice of Khojah Nasir-uddin Tusy,
the great Persian astronomer and mathematician. Nasir-uddin had
entered the service of the last prince of the Assassins only for the
purpose of avenging himself on the Khalif, who had disparaged one of
his works. When, however, he became aware of Halaku's power, he not
only betrayed his new master to him, but led the Mughal conqueror also
to Baghdad. After the burning of the library at Alamut (the stronghold
of the Assassins, where they kept their literary treasures) and the
sacking of Baghdad by Halaku Khan, the erection of the astronomical
observatory at Maragha, under the direction of Nasir-uddin Tusy, was
the first sign that Arab civilization and the cultivation of science
had not been entirely extinguished by Tartar barbarism. The learned
viziers who stood by the side of the conqueror, such as the two
brothers Juvaini, were Persians, and therefore hardly belong to the
history of Arab literature. But the fact that one of these two
historians now wrote 'The Heart Opener,' also implies that the
invasion of the barbarians had not quite put an end to literary
More than ten historians flourished at the beginning of this period
whose names terminated with 'din,' such as Baha-uddin, Imad-uddin,
Kamal-uddin, etc., and they were contemporaries of the Arab Plutarch
Ibn Khallikan, already mentioned and described in the preceding
The 'Alfiyya,' or Quintessence of Arab Grammar, was written in verse
by Jamal-uddin Abu Abdallah Muhammad, known under the name of Ibn
Malik. The author died in A.D. 1273-1274; but his work has lived, and
it is looked upon as a good exponent of the system. The Arab text has
been published, with a commentary upon it in French, by Silvestre de
Sacy, A.D. 1834.
During the eighth century of the Hijrah (A.D. 1301-1398), there lived
three distinguished men, one famed as a geographer and traveller, and
the other two as historians, viz., Ibn Batuta, Abul Feda, and Ibn
Khaldun. The first-named left his native town, Tangiers, in A.D. 1324,
and travelled all over the East, performing his pilgrimage to Mecca in
A.D. 1332. The travels of Ibn Batuta were translated by the Rev. S.
Lee, and published by the Oriental Translation Fund, as their first
work, in A.D. 1829. This traveller has been noticed by Kosegarten in a
Latin treatise, and his travels have been also translated into French,
with the Arabic text above, by C. Defremery and R. Sanguinetti, at the
expense of the French Government (1874-1879).
Abul Feda Ismail Hamawi is well known as an historian, and is
frequently mentioned by Gibbon as one of his authorities. He wrote an
account of the regions beyond the Oxus, and also an abridgment of
universal history down to his own time, and as he is supposed to be
very exact, and his style elegant, his works are very much esteemed.
He died A.D. 1345, having succeeded his brother Ahmad as King of Hamat
in Syria, A.D. 1342.
Ibn Khaldun, the African philosopher, was born in Tunis, A.D. 1332,
and passed his youth in Egypt. He served a short time as Chief Justice
at Damascus, and returned to Egypt, where he became Supreme Judge, and
died there A.D. 1406. His principal and most remarkable work is the
'History of the Arabs, the Persians, and the Berbers.'
During the ninth century of the Hijrah (A.D. 1398-1495) Arabian
literature can still boast of a few great names. Ibn-Hajar was not
only the continuator of Ibn Kesir's universal history, called 'The
Beginning and the End,' but also the author of biographies of
celebrated men who had lived during the preceding century, and of
other works besides. He died A.D. 1449. Ibn Arabshah was the writer of
a history of Timour, or Tamerlane, which has some celebrity, and has
been translated into Latin and French. He was a native of Damascus,
and died there A.D. 1450.
Majr-uddin Muhammad Bin Yakub, surnamed Firuzabadi, a learned Persian,
was the author of the largest and most celebrated Arabic dictionary in
existence at the time, called the 'Qanus,' or Ocean, a standard work
to this day, and always greatly praised, and also used by European
Taki-uddin, of Fez, composed the best history of Mekka, and A'ini, who
died A.D. 1451, wrote two celebrated historical works. But the
greatest historian of this time was Al-Makrisi, whose proper name was
Taki-uddin Ahmad, and who was born at Makris, near Baalbec, in A.D.
1366. He early devoted himself to the study of history, geography,
astrology, etc., at Cairo, and his Egyptian history and topography is
still an important work, describing the state of the country and its
rulers. He died at Cairo, A.D. 1442. Some of his works have been
translated into French and Latin, and are still referred to.
In honour of Sayuti, that colossus of learning, who cultivated,
according to the spirit of his times, so many sciences, and dealt with
them practically, this might be called the poly-historical and
poly-geographical period. Julal-uddin Sayuti is said to be the author
of some four hundred works, and he died in A.D. 1505, some twelve years
before the conquest of Egypt by Selim I, the Sultan of Turkey, when
independent Arab literature under Arab sovereigns came to an end. It
is true enough that not only in Egypt and Syria, but also in Turkey
and Persia, Arabic books were written afterwards, but more under
foreign protection, although in the two first-named countries Arabic
is the language of the people, while in the last two it occupies
nearly the same position that Latin does in European universities and
in the Roman Catholic Church.
In the tenth century of the Hijrah (A.D. 1495-1592) the generally
prevalent belief that the world would, at the completion of it, come
to an end, contributed much to the gradual decay of science and
literature. The case is somewhat analogous to the superstition in
Europe some six hundred years previously, when the Christian era
attained its millennium, which was considered to carry with it the
same catastrophe. This prophecy, believed to be true, contributed in
some measure to slacken authority as well as exertion, and the power
of Islamitic countries really sank; but this might have been predicted
without any prophetic foresight. In one part of Islam, the ruin of
Muhammadan countries thus prophesied was accomplished twenty-one years
before the end of the thousandth year, that is in the 979th year of
the Hijrah, A.D. 1571, by the total expulsion of the Moors from Spain.
Granada itself had succumbed already, seventy-nine years before, and
the unwieldy palace of the kings, of Spain (still unfinished) had
risen by the side of the lofty arcades of the Alhambra, still a lovely
specimen of Moorish artistic design and architecture.
The tenth century of the Hijrah (A.D. 1495-1592), which was the first
of the decay of Arab literature, is to be considered as the period
when the political importance of Turkey culminated in the reign of
Sulaiman the Law-giver. There were, however, four authors of celebrity
who wrote both in Arabic and in Turkish. Ibn Kamal Pasha, the surname
of Mufti Shams-uddin Ahmad bin-Sulaiman, who died A.D. 1534, wrote on
history in Turkish, and on law in Arabic; the Mufti Abu Sa'ud acquired
great renown by his numerous Fetwas (legal decisions), approving of
the political institutions of Sulaiman; Ibrahim of Aleppo is the
author of the 'Molteka' (Confluence of Two Seas), which embodies the
essence of Muslim law, according to the Hanifi ritual; and lastly,
Birgeli, otherwise known as Mulla Muhammad Ibn Pir Ali ul-Birkali, was
equally great as a dogmatist and as a grammarian. He wrote in Arabic
'The Unique Pearl; or, The Art of Reading the Koran,' and died A.D.
1573. Special mention, too, must be made of Mulla Ahmad Bin Mustafa,
the celebrated Arabian, whom Haji-Khalfa always calls by the more
euphonious name of Abul-Khair (Father of Wisdom). This author is
worthy of notice, on account of the Arabic works he wrote on
biographical, historical, and especially encyclopaedic subjects. His
'Key of Felicity' will remain for ever the best encyclopaedia of
Arabian sciences, representing as it does their division among the
Arabs, with notices of the works of scholars in every branch of them
in a most compact and comprehensive manner. He died A.D. 1560.
The three most celebrated calligraphers of this century were
Hamdallah, who died A.D. 1518; Mir Ali, who died A.D. 1544; and
Muhammad Hussain Tabrizi, who died A.D. 1574. Their names are just as
celebrated for Thuluth and Talik writing as were formerly those of Ibn
Bawwab, of Ibn Hilal, and of Yakut are for Naskhi. In Egypt and Syria
the characters used were always more beautiful than those of
Andalusia, which survived in the Mugrib (North of Africa).
Here, perhaps, it may be stated that the art of Arabic writing came
into existence but a very short time before Muhammad. 'It was Abu Ali
bin Mukla who first took the present system of written characters from
the style of writing employed by the people of Kufa, and brought it
out under its actual form. He had, therefore, the merit of priority,
and it may be added that his handwriting was very elegant. But to Ibn
Al Bawwab pertains the honour of rendering the character more regular
and simple, and of clothing it in grace and beauty.' In other words,
Ibn Mukla was the first who changed the Kufic into the new Naskhi
character, which Ibn Bawwab improved after him by imparting rotundity
and clearness to the new letters, and which Ibn Yakut Al-Mausili
brought afterwards to the greatest perfection in A.D. 1200.
Ibn Mukla, who was born in A.D. 885, and died A.D. 941, was vizier to
the Khalifs Al-Kahir-billah and Al-Radhi-billah; but, falling into
disfavour through the intrigues of his enemies, he first had his hand
cut off in A.D. 937, and eventually his tongue was torn out, and he
was allowed to perish in the dungeon without any assistance being
offered to him.
Ibn-al-Bawwab, the Penman, is said to have possessed a skill in
penmanship to which no other person ever attained in ancient or modern
times. He died at Baghdad A.D. 1032, and the following verses were
composed as his elegy:
'Thy loss was felt by the writers of former times, And each
successive day justifies their grief. The ink-bottles are
therefore black with sorrow, And the pens are rent through
During the eleventh century of the Hijrah (A.D. 1592-1689) there lived
Mustafa bin Abdullah Katib Jelaby, otherwise known as Haji Khalfa, and
commonly called Mustafa Haji Khalfa, a man of science as a Turkish
historian and geographer, but an Arabic encyclopaedist and
bibliographer. He was the compiler of a work containing many thousands
of titles of Arab, Persian, and Turkish books, with the names of their
authors. Fluegel edited this great work under the title of 'Lexicon
Enciclopaedicum et Bibliographicum,' with a Latin translation in seven
bulky volumes, and it is an extremely valuable work of reference, put
together with the most astonishing and persevering care, and consulted
by all who desire information on Arabic, Persian, and Turkish
literature. This was printed by the Oriental Translation Fund between
A.D. 1835 and 1850, and will always remain as one of the most valuable
works printed by that most useful society, whose extinction must ever
be regretted by all Orientalists and persons interested in Oriental
literature. Haji Khalfa wrote another interesting work, giving a
detailed account of the maritime wars of the Turks in the
Mediterranean and Black Sea and on the Danube, which has been
translated by Mr. James Mitchell. The date of Haji Khalfa's death is
uncertain. He is known to have been alive in A.D. 1622, and still in
1652, and he is supposed to have died in A.D. 1657.
The works of Abul Khair, previously mentioned, and of Haji Khalfa,
embody a mass of information, and constitute the top of the pyramid of
encyclopaedical and biographical works, after which nothing worthy of
mention has been written on these subjects. The basis of this pyramid
had been already laid by An-Nadim, the author of the 'Fihrist,' who
flourished A.D. 987, and by Ibn Khallikan, who died A.D. 1282.
During this century (A.D. 1592-1689) of the most sanguinary wars,
revolutions and dethronements, the condition of Arab literature in the
Ottoman Empire was neither progressive nor satisfactory. Nevertheless,
the study of the sciences, and especially the linguistic and juridical
branches of them, were fostered not only in Constantinople, but also
in Syria and Egypt, in consequence of the institution of the body of
Ulema, established by Muhammad II., the Conqueror (A.D. 1451-1481),
and improved by Sulaiman I., the Law-giver (A.D. 1520-1566), which
sheltered the cultivation of science from the storms of war within the
inviolable precincts of religion.
Mention may be made of Muhammad-Al-Amin, the learned philologist and
lawyer of Damascus, who was born in that town about the middle of the
eleventh and died the beginning of the twelfth century of the Hijrah,
and produced a dozen respectable works, the principal of which bears
the title of 'The Biographies of the Celebrated Men of the Eleventh
Century,' A.H. He gives an account of a couple of hundred scholars,
who represented in Egypt and in Syria the last rays of the setting sun
of Arabian literature.
Next to Muhammad-Al-Amin another author of about a dozen works is to
be noticed, namely, Ahmad-Al Makkari, whose principal work was a
history of the Muhammadan dynasties in Spain, which was translated
from the copies in the library of the British Museum, and illustrated
with critical notes on Spanish history, geography and antiquities, by
Pascual de Gayangos, and printed for the Oriental Translation Fund of
Great Britain and Ireland in A.D. 1840-43. Makkari also wrote a
history of Fez and Morocco, as well as an account of Damascus. He
died at Cairo A.D. 1631.
Besides some historians, grammarians, philologists and poets, the
eleventh century of the Hijrah (A.D. 1592-1689) produced in Syria and
Egypt even astronomers and physicians, who distinguished themselves as
scholars. Of writers of light literature Khafaji may be named as the
chief. He composed a Diwan of ardent love poems, with two anthologies,
containing specimens of verses from a couple of poets, his
contemporaries. He died A.D. 1658. A few more writers might be
mentioned; but their efforts strongly mark the decline of Arabic
literature in the East, the cultivation of which, however, was
henceforth more energetically pursued in Europe, where many works have
been printed and translated.
With the twelfth century of the Hijrah (A.D. 1689-1786) the history of
original Arab literature may be said to have terminated, and its
genius to have disappeared. A revival, however, of Arabian learning is
taking place in Egypt, Syria, and North Africa, but in accordance with
European models, and chiefly under European auspices. All original
research has long been extinct, even among those populations whose
vernacular is the Arabic language; and consequently it is the former,
and not the present state of Arab literature, which is the most
interesting to the people of to-day.
The presses of Constantinople, Cairo, Algiers, Beyruth, and some other
places, reproduce old Arabic works of value, but more translations
from European languages than original compositions are printed and
lithographed. From Bombay, where more than fifty presses are at work,
large quantities of books are exported to countries beyond the British
possessions. These books treat generally of religion, poetry, history,
or medicine; but as they deal more with ancient than with modern
knowledge, they do not tend to propagate progress.
But though Arab literature has decayed, the faith of Islam is still
active and energetic. It is estimated that one hundred and eighty
millions of human beings still follow the precepts of the Prophet, and
daily turn their faces to Mecca, which for them has been, and still
is, the cradle of their faith, the touchstone of their religion, and
the idol of their hearts.
A manual of Arabian history and literature would hardly be complete
unless some special mention of Muhammad was introduced. As previously
stated, his Koran forms the basis of the literary edifice of Arab
literature, while he himself undoubtedly holds the first place in Arab
history. As the author and founder of a new religion, which both
during his lifetime and after his death was accepted with a marvellous
rapidity, and is still being accepted in various parts of Africa, it
must be admitted that he was an extraordinary person. At the beginning
of what may be called his inspired life at Mecca, he stood forth as a
reformer, preacher, and apostle. But, though full of enthusiasm and
belief in the great cause that he advocated, he was, without doubt,
from the commencement to the end of his career, a practical man of
business, which Buddha and Jesus certainly were not.
The life of Muhammad has been written in many languages, and with such
voluminous details, that it is hardly necessary to enter into these
details very minutely here. Sir William Muir's works on the subject
are graphic, descriptive, and full of interesting matter, while a
lengthy article on the subject of Muhammad and Muhammadism, in the
third volume of the 'Dictionary of Christian Biography,' from the pen
of the late Rev. G.P. Badger, is one of extraordinary interest. A
perusal of the above-named works, with Hughes's 'Dictionary of Islam'
as a reference book, will give the ordinary English reader as much
information as is likely to be required in the ordinary course of
But by way of preface to certain remarks upon Muhammad as a reformer,
preacher, and apostle at Mecca, as pope and king at Madinah, as author
of the Koran, founder of a religion, legislator, military leader, and
organizer of the Arabs into a nation, it is perhaps necessary to give
a rapid summary of the principal events of a life which has had such
an influence upon so many people, and which has filled so many pages.
This summary will be as brief as possible:
His birth, August, A.D. 570, at Mecca, his father having died some
His christening by the name of Muhammad, _i.e._, the Praised One. His
grandfather Abdul-Muttalib, who gave him the name, said it was given
to him 'in the hope that his grandson would be praised by God in
heaven, and by God's creatures on earth.'
His bringing up in the desert of the Benou-Saad by a Badawin nurse,
one Halimah, the wife of Harith, for five years.
His mother Aminah took him, aged six, to Madinah to present him to his
maternal relations there. She died on the return journey, A.D. 576.
Under the guardianship of his grandfather Abdul Muttalib (who loved
him dearly) for two years, from six to eight, when Abdul died, A.D.
Under the guardianship of his uncle Abu Thaleb, the uterine brother of
his father, Abd-Allah.
When about twelve years old, Muhammad accompanied his uncle, Abu
Thaleb, into Syria on a mercantile expedition. His first visit to that
country, and his experiences there, A.D. 582.
His presence, during the sacrilegious war, at a battle between certain
tribes at or near Okatz, where he assisted his uncle, who took part in
His attendance at sundry preachings and poetical and eloquent
recitations at Okatz, where it is said he imbibed the first lessons of
the art of poetry and the power of rhetoric, and also acquired certain
His life as a shepherd in the neighbourhood of Mecca, and the ideas
that such a lonely life, face to face with nature, would perhaps
His acquisition of the title of Al-Amin, the Trustworthy.
His second visit to Syria, when twenty-five years old (A.D. 595), on a
mercantile expedition, as agent to the widow Khadijah, and his
acquisition of religious impressions there.
His successful business, and his marriage on his return to Khadijah,
fifteen years his senior in age, A.D. 595.
Six children born to Muhammad by Khadijah, most of whom died young.
The rebuilding of the Kaabah in A.D. 605, in which Muhammad
accidentally takes a prominent part.
His solitary contemplations and studies, from the age of twenty-five
to forty, at Mecca, and in the cave on Mount Hira near Mecca.
Here it is important to bear in mind the foregoing experiences in the
life of Muhammad as we approach the period of his alleged revelations.
There can be no doubt that by this time he had acquired, as well
through his own observation and inquiry, as through intimate converse
with Bara-kah, reputed the most learned Arab of the age, considerable
acquaintance with the dogmas of Judaism and Christianity; that he had
some knowledge of the Bible, the Talmud, and the Gospels; that he was
thoroughly versed in Arab legendary lore, and that, being gifted with
a ready flow of speech, an ardent imagination, together with a bold,
enterprising spirit, he was well equipped for carrying out that grand
social and religious revolution among his countrymen which he
His yearnings after religious truth and his first poetic productions.
His mental depressions.
His first inspirations from the angel Gabriel, A.D. 610.
His account of his visions to his wife, who became the first convert
to al-Islam, or the creed of Muhammad.
His next converts were Ali, his adopted son and cousin;
Zaid-bin-Harithah, also an adopted son; Warakah; and
Abdul-Kaabah-bin-Kuhafah, one of the most influential and learned men
of Mecca, on conversion named Abd Allah, and afterwards called Abu
Bakr, 'The Father of the Virgin,' 'The Companion of the Cave,' 'The
Second of the Two,' 'The True,' 'The Sighing,' etc., and who eventually
became the first Khalifah, or Successor.
Other conversions followed; viz., Saad, Zobeir, Talha; Othman bin
Affan, the third Khalifah, or Successor, after Abu Bakr and Omar;
Abdar-Rahman, and several more.
The injunctions of Muhammad to his converts were then as follows: 'The
duty of believing in one God; in a future reward reserved for the
righteous in another life, and a future punishment for the wicked; of
acknowledging himself as the Apostle of God, and of obeying him as
such; of practising ablution; of offering up prayer according to
certain specified rules.' These, he said, did not constitute a new
religion, but merely restored the ancient religion of Abraham to its
pristine purity. His teachings, he maintained, were revelations
conveyed to him by Gabriel, and he simply repeated what the angel
communicated to him.
His assumption of the title of Apostle of God, in whose name he now
spoke, A.D. 610.
His frequent revelations for three years, and the commencement of his
public preaching to the Koraish, who would not listen, but regarded
him as a half-witted poet.
His denouncement of idolatry, and the consequent persecutions of
himself and his followers by the Koraish.
Conversions in the house of Arcam, afterwards styled the House of
The first emigration to Abyssinia of some of his followers by his
advice, and their speedy return, A.D. 615.
The lapse of Muhammad and his idolatrous concession, but afterwards
disowned and disavowed.
The second emigration to Abyssinia, A.D. 615-616.
The conversion of Hamzah and Omar and thirty-nine adherents of the
latter--a great event, A.D. 615-616.
The Koraish try to come to terms with Muhammad, but fail.
The prohibition of all intercourse with Muhammad and his followers by
order of the Koraish, and a general persecution.
The excommunication of Muhammad and of the descendants of Hisham and
Muttalib, which lasted more than three years, A.D. 617-620.
The death of Muhammad's first wife, Khadijah, in December, A.D. 619,
and of his uncle, Abu Thaleb, in January, 620.
His critical position. He seeks an asylum at Taif, but not being well
received, returns to Mecca, remaining there in comparative retirement.
His marriage, A.D. 620, with Saudah-bint-Zamaah, the widow of one
Sukran, and his betrothal to Ayesha, the daughter of Abu Bakr, then
only eight years old.
The first meeting at the Pilgrimage of a party from Yathrib (Madinah),
to whom Muhammad expounds his doctrines. The listeners profess their
belief in him, and propose to advocate his cause in their native
place. March, A.D. 620.
The conference at Akabah, a hill on the north side of Mecca, with the
men of certain tribes resident at Yathrib, who took an oath to be
faithful to Muhammad and his religion. This is called 'the first
pledge of Akabah.' April, A.D. 621.
The despatch of Musaab, a Meccan disciple, to Yathrib, for the purpose
of giving instruction in the Koran and in the rites of the new
The Night of the Ladder, or the miraculous journey first from Mecca to
Jerusalem upon the beast called al-Burak, and then the ascent from
Jerusalem to heaven, under the guidance of Gabriel, and what he saw
there. Apparently a dream or vision, A.D. 621.
Second meeting at Akabah, called 'the second pledge of Akabah,' and
engagements ratified. March, A.D. 622.
Distrust of the Koraish. Proposal to kill Muhammad, who had advised
his followers to flee to Yathrib. April and May, A.D. 622.
In June, A.D. 622, Muhammad himself secretly leaves Mecca with Abu
Bakr. They first go to a cave in Mount Thur, about three miles to the
south of Mecca, and reach Yathrib (henceforward to be called Al
Madinah, 'The City' _par excellence_) a few days afterwards.
On his way there, at Kuba, a village two miles to the south of
Madinah, Muhammad laid the foundation of a mosque called 'The Fear of
God.' This was the first temple raised by Islam.
Enthusiastic reception at Madinah, a charter drawn up, and Muhammad
assumes the reins of both spiritual and temporal sovereignty.
His family arrives from Mecca.
He completes his house and mosque at Madinah, and draws up a bond of
union between the Ansars, or auxiliaries, of Madinah and the Al
Muhajirun, or emigrants from Mecca, who were the first to embrace
Marriage with Ayesha consummated, January, A.D. 623.
Marriage of Fatimah, Muhammad's daughter, to Ali bin Abu Thaleb, the
adopted son and cousin of Muhammad, June, A.D. 623.
The call to prayer; the Kiblah, or place to which the face was turned
in prayer, changed from Jerusalem to Mecca; the fast of Ramadhan, and
the tithe, or poor rate, instituted. Friday appointed as the day for
public service in the mosque. Commencement of hostilities with the
people of Mecca, the first blood shed, and the first booty taken by
Battle of Badr, or Bedr--a victory. January, A.D. 624.
A Surah, or chapter, issued about 'The Spoils,' how to be divided,
which now forms Chapter VIII. of the Koran.
Commencement of disputes with the Jews, and the exile of the Benou
Kainuka, a Jewish tribe settled at Madinah, to Syria.
Assassination of certain Jews.
Marriage of Muhammad to Hafsah, the daughter of Omar, on the death of
her husband Khunais, December, A.D. 624. His fourth wife.
Defeat at Ohud, January, A.D. 625.
Further military expeditions.
The exile of the Benou Nadhir, another Jewish tribe residing near
Muhammad marries a fifth wife, Zaineb-bint-Khuzaimah, the widow of
Obaidah, slain at Badr. January, A.D. 626.
Further hostilities with Arab tribes.
Muhammad marries his sixth wife, Omm-Salamah, widow of Abu Salamah,
February, A.D. 626.
Further warlike expeditions.
Muhammad marries his seventh wife, Zainab bint Jahsh, purposely
divorced by his freedman and adopted son Zaid bin Harithah, so that
she might marry the Prophet. June, A.D. 626.
Further military expeditions.
Muhammad marries his eighth wife, Juwairiyyah-bint Harith, who
survived him forty-five years. December, A.D. 626.
Ayesha, the favourite wife, and the daughter of Abu Bakr, accused of
adultery, but eventually acquitted by a Divine revelation.
Siege of Madinah, February and March, A.D. 627.
Massacre of the Benou Koreitza, a Jewish tribe near Madinah. Muhammad
takes Rohana, the beautiful Jewess, as a concubine.
Several minor expeditious.
An intended pilgrimage to Mecca, but Muhammad, with his followers, do
not go further than Al-Hodeibiah.
A truce made with the Koraish for ten years, and permission given to
Muhammad to visit the Kaabah the next year, for three days only.
March, A.D. 628.
Letters sent by Muhammad to foreign sovereigns and princes, inviting
them to embrace Islam; but these met with a moderate success only.
Expedition against the Jews of Khaibar, and its complete success.
August, A.D. 628.
Marriage of Muhammad with Safiyyah, the bride of Kinanah, his ninth
wife, August, A.D. 628. He partakes of a poisoned kid, dressed and
offered to him by a woman named Zeinab.
His marriage with Omm Habiba, widow of Obaid Allah, and daughter of
Abu Sofyan, October, A.D. 628. His tenth wife.
He takes Mary, the Coptic maid, as a concubine, sent to him by Jarih
bin Mutta, the Governor of Egypt.
There were now nine wives and two concubines living in the harem of
Several small expeditions.
Despatch of further letters to foreign potentates and princes.
His pilgrimage to Mecca for three days, as previously stipulated, and
known as the 'Solemn visit of the Fulfilment.' February, A.D. 629.
His marriage with Maimunah bint Harith, his eleventh and last wife.
Further important conversions at Mecca, such as Othman bin Talha, the
guardian of the Kaabah; Amru, or Amr bin al-Aasi, a man renowned for
sagacity, and who, during the Khalifate of Omar, conquered Egypt; and
Khalid bin Walid, whose exploits obtained for him the title of 'The
Sword of God.' This last was the most talented general of the Muslims.
Several military excursions.
Battle at Muta with certain Syrian tribes subject to the Roman
authorities, September, A.D. 629. A defeat.
Further military expeditions.
Expedition against Mecca, and its complete success. Destruction of
pictures, images, and idols at Mecca and the surrounding districts.
Expedition against the Benou Thakif at Taif, and their allies the
Benou Huwazin, and the battle of Honein, February, A.D. 630.
Siege of Taif, and its abandonment, followed later by the submission
of Malik, the chief of the Benou Thakif, and the greater part of the
Muhammad performs the Lesser Pilgrimage and returns to Madinah.
The birth of a son by his Coptic slave and concubine Mary, April, A.D.
630. The boy, named Ibrahim, lived only about a year.
Quarrel with his legitimate wives about Mary, the Coptic slave, whom
he had freed after the birth of the child.
Arrival of a Christian deputation at Madinah, and their discussions
without conversion on either side. The Christians designated Jesus
Christ as the Son of God, and the Second Person in the Trinity.
Muhammad denied this, quoting the following from the Koran:
'Jesus, the son of Mary, is only an apostle of God, and His word,
which He conveyed into Mary, and a spirit proceeding from Himself.
Believe, therefore, in God and His apostle, and say not three.
Forbear; it will be better for you. God is only one God. Far be it
from His glory that He should have a son.'
Deputations from certain Arab tribes.
Several lesser expeditions.
Campaign of Tabuk, which ended without fighting, and the submission of
many tribes, October, A.D. 630.
Definite establishment of the Muslim Empire, A.D. 631.
Expedition of Ali to Yaman, December, A.D. 631.
Muhammad's solemn and greater pilgrimage to Mecca, i.e. 'the Al-Hijj,'
or the Greater Pilgrimage, as compared with 'the Umrah,' or Lesser
Pilgrimage. March, A.D. 632.
His speeches at this pilgrimage, known in Muhammadan history as 'The
pilgrimage of the announcement,' or 'The pilgrimage of Islam,' or 'The
farewell pilgrimage.' His establishment of the lunar year, and his
Indisposition of Muhammad, and the three revolts--one headed by
Tulaihah bin Khuwailid, a famous warrior of Najd; one by Musailamah;
and one by Al-Aswad, all of which were eventually completely crushed
after Muhammad's death by Abu Bakr and his generals.
Another expedition to Syria projected.
Muhammad's health becomes worse. His retirement to Ayesha's apartment.
His final discourses.
Abu Bakr appointed to lead the public prayers.
Muhammad's last appearance in the mosque at Madinah.
His death and burial, June, A.D. 632.
From the above summary of the principal events of Muhammad's life, it
will be perceived that up to the age of forty he was a student and
acquirer of knowledge, much alone and occupied with his thoughts. At
forty-one he began his public ministry, and stood forth as a reformer,
preacher, and apostle at Mecca, and this continued till he finally
left that place, in June, A.D. 622. As a reformer he proposed to do
away with idols, to suppress gambling and drinking, and to abolish
female infanticide, at that time much practised by the Arabs. As a
preacher and apostle he urged the people to accept the belief in one
God, whose injunctions were communicated to him by Gabriel for the
benefit of the humanities. Prayer and ablution were also then
ordained; fasting, almsgiving, and pilgrimages were instituted later
Before Muhammad's time there had been several earnest seekers after
the one God, the God of Abraham. Of these persons Zaid, the Inquirer,
may be mentioned, as also Warakah, a cousin of Muhammad's first wife,
Khadijah; Othman bin Huwairith, and Obaid Allah bin Jahsh. The people
who professed this theism were termed Hanyfs; but their state of mind
was as yet a purely speculative one, and they had announced nothing
definite. But the ground was so far laid open, and had been prepared
to a certain extent for Muhammad and his express revelation, that
'There was no God but the God, and that Muhammad was His apostle.'
It is highly probable that when Muhammad first began his public
exhortations he had a strong idea of bringing not only the Arabs, but
also the Jews and Christians, into his fold, and establishing one
universal faith on the basis of one God, Almighty, Eternal, Merciful,
Compassionate. It was on this account that he made Jerusalem the Kiblah,
or consecrated direction of worship, and introduced into the Suras, or
chapters, that he issued from time to time a good deal of matter
connected with our Old and New Testaments. He particularly mentioned
Abraham as the Father of the Faith, and acknowledging that there had
already existed many thousand prophets, and three hundred and fifteen
apostles, or messengers, he quoted nine of these last as special
messengers, viz., Noah, Abraham, Jacob, Joseph, Moses, Job, David,
Jesus, the son of Mary, and himself. To five of these he gave special
titles. He called Noah the preacher of God; Abraham the friend of God;
Moses the converser with God; Jesus the spirit of God; and himself the
apostle, or messenger, of God. But of the nine above mentioned four
only, viz., Moses, David, Jesus, and Muhammad, held the highest rank as
It would, therefore, appear that Muhammad really hoped to establish
one religion, acknowledging one God and a future life, and admitting
that the earlier prophets had emanated from God as apostles or
messengers. The world was too young and too ignorant in Muhammad's
time to accept such an idea. It may, however, be accepted some day,
when knowledge overcomes prejudice. Nations may have different habits,
manners, and customs, but the God they all worship is one and the
Muhammad's life, from the age of forty to fifty, was one long struggle
with the Koraish. Had it not been for the support given him by some of
his influential relations at Mecca, he would either have been killed,
or compelled to leave the place before he did. It is true that during
these twelve years he made some excellent converts and faithful
followers; but still it must be regarded as an historical fact that
Muhammad failed at Mecca, as Jesus had failed at Jerusalem. In the one
case Jesus was sacrificed, and passed away, leaving the story of His
life, His words and His works in the heads of His disciples, who, with
the suddenly converted Paul, certain Alexandrian Jews, the Emperor
Constantine, some literary remains of Plato, along with a destruction
of adverse manuscripts and documents, finally established the
Christian religion. In the other case Muhammad, failing at Mecca,
succeeded at Madinah, and before his death had so far settled matters
that the religion was fairly established, and was thus saved the
severe and bitter struggles of the first centuries of the Christian
It has seldom been a matter of speculation as to what would have been
the course of the world's history if Muhammad had been slain by the
Koraish before he left Mecca, or if Jesus had not been crucified by
the Jews. It is probable that in the end both religions would have
been eventually established in other ways, and by other means,
depending a good deal on the followers of the two men. But as the
subject is purely speculative, it can hardly be entertained in this
purely historical chapter.
Once at Madinah, Muhammad became a personage. Supported by his Meccan
followers (al-Muhajirun), and the Madinese auxiliaries (Ansars), he
assumed immediately a spiritual and temporal authority, and became a
sort of Pope-King. He kept that position for the rest of his life,
improving it by his military successes, his diplomatic arrangements,
his spiritual instructions, and his social legislation.
It was probably shortly before he went to Madinah, or very soon after
his arrival there, that he gave up all ideas of bringing over Jews,
Christians, and Sabaeans to his views. He determined to adapt them to
the manners and customs of the Arabs only. In this he showed his
wisdom and his knowledge of business. He changed the Kiblah from
Jerusalem to Mecca. In the place of the Jewish trumpet, or the
Christian bell, he introduced the call to prayer still heard from the
tapering minarets of every mosque throughout the Muhammadan world.
By the Christian world it has been sometimes considered that Muhammad
was good and virtuous at Mecca, but vicious and wicked at Madinah.
Such calls to mind the reply of an Indian youth when asked in an
examination to give an outline of the character of our good Queen
Elizabeth. He briefly described her as 'a great and virtuous princess,
but in her old age she became dissolute, and had a lover called
But the position of Muhammad at Madinah was entirely different to what
it had been at Mecca. At the latter place he was unable to assert
himself. Indeed, it was as much as he could do to keep himself and his
followers going at all, constantly subject as they were to persecution
from the Koraish. All this was changed at Madinah, and his ten years
rule there was remarkable for his various military expeditions, his
organization of the different tribes, his bitter persecution of the
Jews, his still-continued inspired utterances, which now included
spiritual, social, and legal matters, and his repeated marriages.
It has been frequently said that Muhammad, in his virtuous days, was
content with one wife at Mecca, but in his vicious days at Madinah he
had ten wives and two concubines. As a matter of fact, after
Khadijah's death Muhammad's marriages were in most cases more or less
a matter of business. By them he allied himself to Abu Bakr, Omar, Abu
Sofyan, Khalid bin Walid, and other important persons. He further
married the widows of some of his followers killed in battle, perhaps
'pour encourager les autres.' It is also probable that he was very
anxious to have children, all of his having died except Fatima, who
was married to Ali.
At the same time it must be admitted that Muhammad had a weakness for
women in his later years--witness the case of Zainab bint Jahsh, the
Jewish concubine Rohana, and the Coptic maid Mary. Indeed, his
favourite wife Ayesha used to say of him: 'The Prophet loved three
things--women, scents, and food; he had his heart's desire of the two
first, but not of the last,' The reasons for this want of food, and
many other traditions connected with the character of Muhammad, are to
be found in the last chapter and the supplement at the end of Sir
William Muir's most excellent and interesting work on the life of this
extraordinary man, who, if author of the Koran only, would be
entitled to rank among the immortals.
According to Muslim orthodox theology, the Koran is the inspired Word
of God, uncreated, and eternal in its original essence. 'He who says
the word of God is created is an infidel,' such is the decree of
Muhamniadan doctrine. Leaving everybody to form their own opinion on
such a matter, it is only necessary here briefly to allude to the
work, and to suppose that Muhammad was the inspired author of it.
The Koran is divided into 114 suras, or chapters, and 6,666 verses.
The word itself signifies reading or recitation, and Muhammad always
asserted that he only recited what had been repeated to him. But the
Koran represents Muhammad from many points of view, in different
capacities, and under different necessities. Ayesha, his favourite
wife, when asked in later years as a widow to relate something about
the Prophet, replied: 'Have you not the Koran, and have you not read
it? for that will tell you everything about him.'
The Koran was not collected or arranged until after Muhammad's death.
It is to be regretted that there is no reliable record of the exact
order in which its various verses and chapters were given to the world
by the Prophet, as that would have given us a great insight into the
working of his mind from the time that he began his first recitals up
to the time of his death. It is true that attempts have been made to
formulate the order of delivery, but these can only be more or less
conjecture. At the same time, though earlier and later verses appear
mixed up in the different chapters, in some cases, of course, the
period to which they belong can be pretty accurately fixed and
As an interesting work, it can hardly be compared with our Old and New
Testaments, nor would it be fair to make such a comparison. It must be
remembered that the Koran is the work of Muhammad alone, while the
Biblos, or Book, commonly called the Bible, is the work of many men.
In its compilation many authors were rejected, and it represents as a
whole the united talents of the ages. Indeed, the Bible may be
considered as the most wonderful book in existence, and certainly the
most interesting after visiting the countries it describes and the
localities it refers to. If read from a matter-of-fact point of view,
it gives an abundance of various kinds of literature, and describes
the workings of the human mind from the earliest ages, and the
progress of ideas as they gradually and slowly dawned upon man and
drove him onwards. If read from a spiritual or mystical point of view,
it can be interpreted in many ways to meet the views of either the
readers or the hearers. In a word, the Bible is full of prose and
poetry, fact and imagination, history and fiction. It was lately
described in an Italian newspaper, _Il Secolo_, about to issue a
popular edition of it in halfpenny numbers, as follows:
'There is one book which gathers up the poetry and the science of
humanity, and that book is the Bible; and with this book no other work
in any literature can be compared. It is a book that Newton read
continually, that Cromwell carried at his saddle, and that Voltaire
kept always on his study table. It is a book that believers and
unbelievers should alike study, and that ought to be found in every
As a scientific work it has little value except that it represents the
extent of scientific knowledge possessed by the authors at the time
the different books were written.
To return to the Koran, which may, then, be regarded as the Bible of
the Muslims. According to Mr. Badger: 'It embodies the utterances of
the Arabian Prophet on all subjects, religious and moral,
administrative and judicial, political and diplomatic, from the outset
to the close of his career, together with a complete code of laws for
regulating marriage, divorce, guardianship of orphans, bargains,
wills, evidence, usury, and the intercourse of private and domestic
life, as they were dictated by him to his secretaries, and by them
committed to writing on palm-leaves, the shoulder-blades of sheep, and
other tablets. These, it appears, were thrown pell-mell into chests,
where they remained till the reign of Abu Bakr, the immediate
successor of Muhammad, who, during the first year of his Khalifate,
entrusted Zaid-bin Harithah, an Ansar, or auxiliary, and one of the
amanuenses of the Prophet, with the task of collecting them together,
which he did, as well from "the breasts of men" as from the
afore-named materials, meaning thereby that he availed himself of the
memories of those who had committed parts of the Prophet's utterances
to memory. [Tradition states that one of the contemporary Muslims had
learnt as many as seventy chapters by heart.] Zaid's copy continued to
be the standard text during the Khalifate of Abu Bakr, who committed
it to the keeping of Hafsah, one of Muhammad's widows. Certain
disputes having arisen regarding this text, owing mainly to the
variations of dialect and punctuation occurring therein, Omar, the
successor of Abu Bakr, in the tenth year of his Khalifate, determined
to establish a text which should be the sole standard, and delegated
to Zaid, with whom he associated several eminent Arab scholars of the
Al-Koraish, the task of its reduction. On its completion copies were
forwarded to the principal stations of the empire, and all previously
existing copies were submitted to the flames. This is the text now in
general use among Muslims, and there is every reason to believe it to
be a faithful rescript of the original fragmentary collection, amended
only in its dialectical variations, and made conformable to the purer
Arabic of the Al-Koraish, in which the contents of the Koran were
announced by Muhammad.'
From a literary point of view the Koran is regarded as a specimen of
the purest Arabic, and written in half poetry and half prose. It has
been said that in some cases grammarians have adapted their rules to
agree with certain phrases and expressions used in it, and that though
several attempts have been made to produce a work equal to it, as far
as elegant writing is concerned, none have as yet succeeded.
With the Koran, then, as a basis to work upon, Muhammad became the
author and, it may be said, also founder of the Muhammadan faith,
although as regards the foundation of any religion the followers of
the author are generally the real founders of his faith. Of the three
authors of great religions, viz., Moses, Buddha, and Jesus, who had
gone before, Moses seems to have had much in common with Muhammad, and
the two resembled each other in some ways. Buddha and Jesus were, on
the other hand, entirely spiritualistic, their ideas on many subjects
much the same, and their preachings and teachings run together very
much on parallel lines.
The connecting links, however, between Buddhism and Christianity, if
any, have yet to be discovered and determined. It may happen that some
day further light may be thrown upon the subject; but at present, in
spite of similarity of ideas, of sentiments, and of parables in the
two religions, there is no positive proof of any connection between
them, except that one preceded the other. While history has recorded
every detail of Muhammad's life, both before and after his public
ministry, which did not begin until he was forty years of age,
history, alas! gives us no detailed record of the life of Jesus prior
to the commencement of His public ministry in His thirtieth year. Had
He travelled Himself to the further East? Had He studied under
Buddhist missionaries? Had He taken the vows of poverty, chastity, and
obedience, before He was baptized by John the Essene? Had He anything
to do with the sects called Essenes, Therapeuts, Gnostics, Nazarites,
the Brethren, which existed both before and during His lifetime?
These, and many other questions which might be asked, can now probably
never be answered, and the only thing that can be confidently asserted
is that the character and the spiritual teachings of Christ, as handed
down to us, much resemble the character and spiritual teachings of
A few paragraphs must be devoted to Moses and Muhammad, as the first
organizers of the Jews and the Arabs into separate and distinct
nationalities. The two men had very different material to work upon,
but they succeeded with the aid of Eloah, or Allah, supporting their
It is probably historically true that the good old patriarch Abraham
once lived, and may be considered to be the father of the Jewish,
Christian, and Muhammadan religions. According to Arab tradition,
Abraham, assisted by Ishmael, built the Kaabah at Mecca, so called
because it was nearly a kaabah, or square. Anyhow, Abraham has ever
been regarded with the greatest veneration by the Muslims, and his
tomb at Hebron at the present day is so jealously guarded by them that
the Jews and the Christians are not permitted to enter its sacred
Abraham and his followers worshipped Eloah, or the Almighty God, as
the one and only God, offering up to Him at times various sacrifices.
According to Renan, in his 'History of the People of Israel,' 'the
primitive religion of Israel was the worship of the Elohim, a
collective name for the invisible forces that govern the world, and
which are vaguely conceived as forming a supreme power at once single
'This vague primitive monotheism got modified during the migrations of
the children of Israel, and especially during their struggles for the
conquest of Palestine, and at last gave place to the conception of
Jahveh, a national God conceived after the fashion of the gods of
polytheism, essentially anthropomorphic, the God of Israel in conflict
with the gods of the surrounding nations.'
'It was the task of the prophets to change this low and narrow
conception of the Deity for a nobler one, to bring back the Jews to
the Elohistic idea in a spiritualized form, and to transform the
Jahveh or Jehovah of the times of the Judges into a God of all the
earth--universal, one and absolute, that God in spirit and in truth of
whom Jesus, the last of the prophets, completed the revelation.'
Certain events in the life of Joseph brought the family of Jacob to
Egypt, separated it from the other tribes, and made the Israelites
into a peculiar people. As the twelve families of the sons of Jacob
expanded into twelve tribes, they grew in number to such an extent
that the Egyptian Government of the day began to be alarmed, and
commenced coercive proceedings, which led to the appearance of Moses,
first as a liberator, and then as the organizer of the twelve tribes
into a Jewish nationality.
[Footnote 5: The actual dates of these events and of the
exodus from Egypt have not yet been historically fixed. How
the Israelites first migrated to the land of Goshen, and how
they eventually left Egypt, is still a question of
considerable controversy. Further discoveries may yet throw
further light on the subject.]
When Moses first took the children of Israel out of Egypt, it was
probably his intention to lead them at once to the promised land.
Finding, however, that their physical strength and courage was not
equal to the conquest of Canaan, he kept them in the desert for forty
years, until the open-air life and the hardy fare had produced a new
generation of men fit to cope with the warriors of the land they were
about to attempt to conquer.
Doubtless, during this residence in the desert Moses legislated both
morally and socially for the Jews, as Muhammad did for the Arabs at
Madinah. But as the Koran was not put together during Muhammad's
lifetime, so it is also highly probable that the Pentateuch, or five
books of Moses, were not collected and collated till some time after
his death, which last is described in the work itself. Indeed, many
things mentioned in them show a more advanced state of civilization
than the children of Israel enjoyed during their wanderings in the
[Footnote 6: This subject is treated at considerable length
by Dr. A. Kuenen in 'The Religion of Israel,' translated by
Alfred Heath May from the Dutch. Williams and Norgate:
But, still, to Moses the Jews owe their nationality, as the Arabs owed
theirs to Muhammad. The former found a weak people, united to a
certain extent, but quite unaccustomed to fighting and hardship, and
he welded them sufficiently together to enable them, under his
successors, to establish themselves in the promised land. The latter
found Arabia inhabited by a quantity of tribes, more or less hostile
to each other, but brave to a degree; fond of fighting and plundering,
and always at it; full of local jealousies and internal enmities,
which kept them separate. Muhammad not only induced them to believe in
one God, but also brought them together to such, an extent that his
successors were able to launch them as united warriors and conquerors
throughout the East, and to found an empire for the time being far
greater, grander, and more important than Canaan, as divided among the
twelve tribes, or the dominions of David and Solomon.
As a military leader Muhammad was not particularly celebrated. The
military expeditions undertaken by him in person are variously stated
to have been from nineteen to twenty-seven in number, whilst those in
which he was not present are stated to have amounted to more than
fifty. With the exception of one or two to the Syrian frontier, they
were chiefly directed against the Arabs and the Jews in Arabia, but
none of them were of the magnitude of those undertaken by his
successors, Abu Bakr and Omar, who, with the aid of the generals
Khalid, son of Walid, Mothanna, Amr bin Al'Aasi, and others, made
great conquests, and finally established the Muslim faith on a firm
and lasting basis. The details of these successes are admirably told
in Muir's 'Annals of the Early Khalifate.'
There appears to be a great resemblance between many of the military
and warlike expeditions undertaken by Muhammad in Arabia, and those of
the Jews, as narrated in the historical works of the Old Testament, in
Palestine. In both countries God was used as the authority, and
individuals and tribes were attacked and slaughtered much in the same
way. Indeed, if the numbers slain, as recorded by the Jewish
historians, are to be depended upon, it can only be inferred that the
God of the Jews was more vindictive and bloodthirsty than the God of
the Arabs. At the present time the Soudanese and their Khalifahs seem
to be following very much in the steps of Muhammad, constantly sending
forth military expeditions, and issuing letters to foreign potentates.
In conclusion, the dogmas and precepts of Islam, as embodied in the
Koran, may be summed up as follows:
(1) Belief in Allah or God, or, more correctly, 'The God;' that is,
the only God. 'Al,' the; 'Ilah,' a God.
(2) Belief in the Messengers or Angels.
(3) Belief in the Books or Scriptures, and in the Prophets.
(4) Belief in Hell and Paradise.
(5) Belief in a general resurrection and final judgment.
(6) Belief in the decrees of God, or of His having absolutely
predestined both good and evil.
The five cardinal ordinances of Islam are:
(1) The pious recitation of the Kalimah, or Creed: 'There is no God
but the one God, and Muhammad is his Apostle.'
(4) Legal and obligatory almsgiving.
There are several other points connected with the institutions of
Islam, such as--
(2) Marriage and polygamy.
(4) The Jihad, or Holy War.
(5) Food, drink and ablutions.
But full details connected with the above will be found, if required,
in Hughes 'Dictionary of Islam,' so that further reference to them
here is unnecessary. It must, however, always be remembered that faith
and prayer were the two points which Muhammad always insisted upon as
The Muhammadan religion may be regarded as creating in theory the
purest democracy in existence. All men are supposed to be equal. There
are no hereditary titles. Every man can rise, either by interest or
talent, from the very lowest to the very highest position. There is a
universal feeling of brotherhood among the Muslims. All this is
excellent in theory, but in practice the ways of the world are
different. A Pasha holds his place and upholds his position, while a
humble follower of the said Pasha, or other person in an inferior
position, knows his place also, and treats his superiors and his
inferiors accordingly. In fact, both in the East and the West there
appears to be a place for all men, and that place is established by
the unwritten laws of the world or by the law of nature, in spite of
the many theories propounded by religion, politics, or political
economy. Still, Muhammad himself instilled equality among his
followers, and in his parting address at Mina, at the time of the
farewell pilgrimage, spoke as follows:
'Ye people! hearken to my speech and comprehend the same. Know that
every Muslim is the brother of every other Muslim. All of you are on
the same equality' (and as he pronounced these words he raised his
arms aloft and placed the forefinger of one hand on the forefinger of
the other, intending thereby to signify that all were absolutely on
the same level); 'ye are one brotherhood.
'Know ye what month this is? What territory is this? What day?' To
each question the people gave the appropriate answer, viz.:
'The sacred month, the sacred territory, the great day of pilgrimage.'
After every one of these replies Muhammad added:
'Even thus sacred and inviolable hath God made the life and the
property of each of you unto the other, until ye meet your Lord.
'Let him that is present tell it unto him that is absent. Haply, he
that shall be told may remember better than he who hath heard it.'
TALES AND STORIES.
Of the two hundred and fifty books of tales, the titles of which are
given in the 'Fihrist,' only three or four have attained European
fame. Firstly, the book known in Arabic as 'Kalilah wa Dimnah,'
containing the celebrated Indian apologues, or the so-called fables of
Bidpay, on the origin of which several dissertations have been
In 'Early Ideas' (W.H. Allen and Co., 1881) mention was made of the
fables of Bidpay, or Pilpai, as being the traditionally oldest-known
collection of stories in Hindustan, and that from them the 'Pancha
Tantra,' or 'Five Chapters,' and the 'Hitopodesa,' or 'Friendly
Advice,' are supposed to have been drawn.
In 'Persian Portraits' (Quaritch, 1887) it was noted that the Persian
work called 'Kalilah wa Dimnah' is said to have been originally
derived from the fables of Bidpay, and that it led to the longer and
larger works known in Persian literature as the 'Anwar-i-Suheli,' or
'The Lights of Canopos,' and the 'Ayar-Danish,' or 'The Touchstone of
It is highly probable that this work of 'Kalilah wa Dimnah'
(translated from Persian into Arabic by Ibn Al-Mukaffa about A.D.
750), and another Persian work, not now extant, but known as the
'Hazar Afsaneh,' or 'Thousand Stories,' were the first sources from
which were commenced to be compiled the best collection of tales and
stories in Arabic literature, and called 'The Thousand and One
Nights,' and popularly known in this country as 'The Arabian Nights.'
As regards the 'Hazar Afsaneh,' or 'Thousand Stories,' it is much to
be regretted that all trace of this work has disappeared. It is,
however, mentioned by Masudi, and An-Nadim, the author of the
'Fihrist,' but whether they had actually seen and perused the whole
work is uncertain. It may have been completed during the rule of the
Sasanian dynasty in Persia (A.D. 228-641), some of whose kings were
patrons of letters, and the work, or portions of it, may have been
destroyed along with a large quantity of other Persian literature at
the time of the conquest of the Persian Empire by the Arabs in A.D.
641. At all events, it has not yet been found, though it is still
hoped that it may turn up some day.
As regards the 'Nights' themselves, it is impossible to fix any exact
date to them, neither can they be ascribed to any particular authors.
From the book as it has come down to us; there is ample evidence to
assert that the collection of all the tales and stories occupied many
years, and that the authors of them were numerous. As great progress
was made in Arab literature from the commencement of the rule of the
Abbaside dynasty in A.D. 750, it maybe inferred that the work itself
dates from that period, and that it had been put together in a certain
form before the fall of Baghdad in A.D. 1258. After that date other
stories were probably added, and the whole repertoire was perhaps put
together again in its present shape either at Cairo or Damascus, with
numerous alterations and additions.
It is believed that the fables and apologues are the oldest part of
the book. These bear on their face a decided impress of the Farther
East; indeed, they are quite of the nature of the stories told in the
'Pancha Tantra,' 'Katha Sarit Sagara,' 'Hitopodesa,' and 'Kalilah wa
Dirnnah,' many of them being either the same, or bearing a very great
resemblance to them. Animal fables generally may have originated in
India, where the doctrine of metempsychosis obtains currency to this
day; but, still, Egypt, Greece, and other countries, have also
produced stories of the same nature. From the time of the early
Egyptians, the fable has ever been the means of conveyance of both
instruction and amusement to mankind. And as years rolled by the fable
grew into the tale or story, which later on expanded into the romance
and the novel.
After the fables the oldest tales in the 'Nights' are supposed to be
the Sindibad, or the tale of the king, his son, his concubine, and the
seven wazirs; and that of King Jali'ad of Hind, and his wazir Shimas,
followed by the history of King Wird Khan, son of King Jali'ad, with
his women and wazirs. These tales have also an Indian flavour about
them, both with regard to the animal stories in them and to the
sapient remarks about the duties of kings and their ministers, often
referred to in the Katha Sarit Sagara, of which more anon.
The remaining tales and stories in the 'Nights' may be of Persian,
Arabian, Egyptian, and Syrian origin, some earlier and some later. The
adventures of Kamar Al-Zaman and the jeweller's wife, and of Ma'aruf,
the cobbler, and his wife Fatimah, are considered to be two of the
very latest stories, having been assigned to the sixteenth century.
The story of Aboukir, the dyer, and Abousir, the barber, is quoted by
Payne 'as the most modern of the whole collection.'
Certain stories of the 'Nights' were first introduced to Europe,
between 1704-1708, by Antoine Galland, a Frenchman, whose biography is
given by Burton in his 'Terminal Essay,' vol. x., and most interesting
it is. The work of the translation of Arabic and Persian stories was
continued by Petis de la Croix (1710-12), Morell (1765), Dow (1768),
Chavis and Cazotte (1787-89), Caussin de Perceval (1806), Gauttier
(1822), Jonathan Scott (1811), Von Hammer Purgstall (1823), Zinzerling
(1823-24), Trebutien (1828), Habicht (1825-39), Weil (1838-42),
Torrens (1838), Lane (1838-40), and the 'Nights' themselves have now
been completely finished by John Payne (1882-84) and Richard Burton
A perusal of the productions of all the translators above mentioned
will show that, as regards finality, both Payne and Burton have done
their work completely, thoroughly, and exhaustively, and for all time,
as far as an English translation is concerned. Too much credit cannot
be given to these two gentlemen for their untiring labour and energy.
The more the 'Nights' are read, the more will people appreciate the
amount of hard work and acumen, intelligence and ability, which has
been thrown into the undertaking by these two accomplished
litterateurs. And it is highly probable that their translations, along
with Galland's volumes in French, will ever remain as the standard
European versions of this great series of Oriental tales.
Space will not permit of a lengthy description of all that is
contained in Payne's thirteen, and in Burton's sixteen, volumes. To be
appreciated thoroughly, they must be read, like Balzac's works, from
the very beginning to the very end. At the same time a brief analysis
of these two translations of the 'Nights' may perhaps be interesting,
and will serve the purposes of the present chapter.
The first nine of Payne's, and the first ten of Burton's, volumes are
devoted to the 'Nights' proper, and follow the same lines. The
translation has been made from what are commonly known as the Boulac
(Cairo) and the two Calcutta Arabic texts of the 'Nights,' though
references are made to the Breslau (Tunis) edition, from which also
some extracts have been taken and some translations made. The contents
of these volumes may be divided into four heads:
(1) Fables and apologues.
(2) Short stories and anecdotes, some biographical and historical.
(3) Tales and stories.
(4) Long stories, or romances.
Excluding the two short stories in the introductory chapter, there are
10 principal and 6 subordinate fables under the first heading, 116
principal and 3 subordinate stories under the second, 38 principal and
75 subordinate under the third, and 6 principal and 12 subordinate
under the fourth heading. This gives a total of 170 principal and 96
subordinate stories in Burton's edition, while Payne gives one
principal story and one subordinate one less, his numbers being 169
and 95 respectively. By principal is meant the main or chief story,
while by subordinate is meant another story forming part of the main
story. In Oriental literature this custom is frequently introduced. A
story is commenced, but owing to some allusion in it another story is
interpolated, and when this is finished, the original tale is reverted
to, only, perhaps, to be interpolated again by another story, and so
Out of this mass of fable, tale and story, it is difficult to select
any particular ones that may prove interesting to everybody. Some are
very good, others good, some fairish, and others indifferent; but all
are more or less interesting, as they deal with all sorts and
conditions of men and women, and all sorts of events and situations.
Personally, some twelve stories have struck me as particularly
interesting or amusing, though it does not at all follow that what one
person fancies another person cares about. A perusal of the work
itself will enable its readers to find out what they like for
themselves, while the following brief remarks on the twelve stories
alluded to above will give a scanty outline of them.
The tale of Aziz and Azizah is one of the best in the whole
collection. It represents the care and fondness of a truly loving
woman, who did her best to shield and protect her very stupid cousin.
It is said that people marry for three reasons, viz., for love, for
money, or for protection. In truth, nobody can protect a man from a
woman as another woman. No man can drive off a woman, divine her
intention, or insult her so violently as a woman can, and this is
generally understood both in the East and West. In the present story,
Azizah first helps her cousin Aziz to woo and win, endeavouring to
shield and protect him at the same time from this daughter of Dalilah,
the wily one. Had it not been for Azizah's good advice and farewell
saying of "Faith is fair, and unfaith is foul," Aziz would have surely
perished. Eventually, the loving Azizah dies of a broken heart.
Aziz, though repeatedly warned by his mistress, the daughter of
Dalilah, not to have anything to do with the sex on account of his
youth and simplicity, falls into the hands of another woman, who first
marries him, and then keeps him locked up in her house, and never lets
him out for a whole year. When, however, he does get away for a day
only, he goes at once to see his former mistress, who is furious on
hearing that he is married to somebody else, and with the aid of her
slave girls serves him out in a way which, from one point of view,
makes marriage quite a failure for him in the future. On going back to
his wife, she, having found out what had occurred, immediately puts
him into the street, and he returns in a sad plight to his mother, who
nurses him and gives him the present and the letter that his cousin
Azizah had left for him. Finally Aziz, for the sake of distraction,
takes to foreign travel, and there meets with Taj al Muluk, whom he
assists to find the princess Dunya.
The tale of Kamar Al-Zaman and the Lady Budur is both amusing and
interesting. It is truly an Eastern story, full of curious and
wonderful situations, and quite a kaleidoscope of passing events,
which succeed each other rapidly. The hero and the heroine are a young
prince and princess, living in very different parts of the world
(space and geography have no place in the "Nights"), and both very
averse to matrimony. The one fears the smiles and wiles of woman, the
other the tyranny and selfishness of man. A certain Queen of the
Jinns, with her assistants, bring the two together one night in the
same bed, and separate them in the morning. But the sight that each
had had of the other caused them to fall desperately in love, and deep
are the lamentations of each over the separation, which continues for
some years. At last Kamar Al-Zaman finds his way to his lady-love, the
Princess Budur, and they are happily wedded; alas! after a short time,
to be again separated. Then follow the adventures of each--the lady
becomes a king, and is married to a princess, and rules a country,
while Kamar Al-Zaman's fate assigns him the place of an
under-gardener. Destiny, however, re-unites them, and the Lady Budur's
joke before recognition and re-union is certainly humorous. She makes
him further marry the lady that she herself was married to, and a son
is born to each, respectively called Amjad and Asaad. When the boys
grow up, the mother of each falls violently in love with the son of the
other, _i.e._, Budur adores Asaad, and Heyat en Nufus worships Amjad,
and the two mothers end by making dishonourable proposals to the two
sons. These overtures being indignantly rejected, the mothers, as in
all Eastern tales, turn the tables by informing their husband that his
sons had made indecent proposals to them. In consequence they are sent
off to be slain in the desert, but, from the circumstances which occur
there, the executioner spares their lives, and returns with their
clothes steeped in a lion's blood, reporting that he has carried out
the king's instructions, and quoting their last message to their
'Women are very devils, made to work us dole and death;
Refuge I seek with God Most High from all their craft and
Prime source are they of all the ills that fall upon mankind,
Both in the fortunes of this world and matters of the faith.'
The king at once recognises their innocence, and mourns over their
loss, building two tombs in their memory, called the Houses of
Lamentations, where he spends his days weeping.
Meanwhile the two youths, left to their own devices by the
executioner, journey onward, arrive at a city, become separated, go
through all sorts of adventures, all of a most thrilling description,
and are finally re-united. The closing scene brings all the characters
of the romance together at the same place, and the grandfathers,
fathers, and sons all meet once more, but no further mention is made
about the two mothers, who so deeply injured their own offspring.
Ala Aldin Abu Al-Shamat.--This story is of considerable interest, for
it begins with a recipe for an aphrodisiac, and contains many
allusions to Eastern manners and customs. Born of wealthy parents at
Cairo, details are given of Ala Aldin's youth and boyhood, and of how
the wish to travel and to trade was instilled into his mind by his
young companions, at the instigation of a crafty old sinner, Mahmud of
Balkh. With some reluctance his father at last allows him to start,
and going first to Damascus, then to Aleppo, he is robbed of all his
property just before he reaches Baghdad, and very nearly loses his
life into the bargain, but his good fortune saves him on two
occasions. Arrived at Baghdad, his adventures begin, and they follow
each other with considerable rapidity. He first is married to Zobeidah
the Lutist, on the understanding that it was for one night only, and
that he was to divorce her the next morning, so that she might be
re-married to her former husband. But when the time comes, Ala Aldin
and the lady find each other such pleasant company that they absolutely
decline to divorce, and elect to pay the fine. This money is provided
for them by Harun-ar-Rashid, who visits them one night with three of
his companions all disguised as dervishes, and they are charmed with
Zobeidah's performance on the lute, her singing, and her recitations.
Ala Aldin then goes to the Court, where he rises to high favour and
receives various good appointments. To his great grief he loses his
wife, who dies, as he supposes, and is buried with the usual mourning,
but in reality turns up again at the end of the tale, and is re-united
to her husband. It appears that a servant of the Jinn had carried her
off to another country, leaving a Jinneyah to be buried in her place.
To make up for the loss of Zobeidah, the Khalif gives Ala Aldin one of
his own slave-girls, Kut al Kulub by name, and sends her, with all her
belongings, to his house. Ala Aldin will not have anything to do with
her, on the grounds--"What was the master's should not become the
man's;" but he lodges, boards, and treats her handsomely. Eventually
Harun takes her back, and orders a slave-girl to be bought at his
expense in the market for ten thousand dinars for Ala Aldin. This is
done, and a girl named Jessamine is purchased and given to him. He
sets her at once free and marries her.
But at the time of the purchase another man had been bidding for this
same girl, and, being much in love with her, his family determine to
assist him in getting hold of her. A whole lot of fresh characters
then appear on the scene, and, after much plotting and intrigue, Ala
Aldin is arrested and sentenced to death. He, however, escapes to
Alexandria, and there opens a shop. Further adventures follow, till he
finds himself at Genoa, where he remains for some time as servant in a
church. Meanwhile at Baghdad his wife Jessamine has borne him a son,
named Asdan, who grows up, and in time discovers the author and nature
of the theft of which his father had been accused, and thus prepares
the way for his return to the city of the Khalifs. This is brought
about by the Princess Husn Maryam at Genoa, with whom Ala Aldin finds
his first wife Zobeidah, and they all set out on a wonderful couch and
go first to Alexandria, then to Cairo to visit his parents, and
finally to Baghdad, where he marries the princess and lives happy ever
Ali the Persian and the Kurd Sharper is a very short story, but quite
Rabelaisian in its humour, and the manner in which the Persian and the
Kurd describe the contents of the small bag that had been lost. All
sorts of things are mentioned in a haphazard way, many of them,
however, perhaps, being required to fulfil the exigencies of the
rhymed prose in which the story is written in the original Arabic.
The Man of Al-Yaman and his six Slave-Girls.--The six girls in this
story have all different qualities. One is white, another brown, the
third fat, the fourth lean, the fifth yellow, and the sixth black. The
happy owner gets them together, and in verse and recitation each
praises her own peculiarity, and abuses that of her opposite by
examples and quotations. There is an Oriental twang about the story
which makes it worthy of notice, and some of the verses are not bad.
Abu Al-Husn and his slave-girl Tawaddud.--This story is not amusing,
but it is very interesting, especially to persons studying the minute
details of the Muhammadan faith, doctrine and practice, according to
the Shafai school, and the exegesis of the Koran, all of which are
wonderfully expounded by the slave-girl. In the shape of questions and
answers an enormous amount of information of all sorts is put into the
mouth of this highly accomplished female. The writer deals not only
with theology, but also with physiology in all its branches, or, at
least, with as many as were known at the period of the tale. Further,
medicine, astronomy, philosophy, and all kinds of knowledge are
discussed. A series of conundrums are put to the girl and replied to
by her, and she also displays her skill in chess, draughts,
backgammon, and music.
It is to be regretted that the exact date of this species of
Mangnall's Questions and Answers cannot be ascertained, for this would
enable us to appreciate better the amount of knowledge displayed on
the various subjects under discussion. Anyhow, it is certain that it
must have been written some time after the doctrines of the Imam
Shafai (he died A.D. 820) had been well-defined and established. Owing
to certain medical and surgical queries and replies, it is to be
presumed that the whole must have been worked up after the Arab school
of medicine and physiology had arrived at their highest stage of
perfection. The whole story is a good specimen of the state of
civilization reached by the Arabs, and as such is worth a reference.
Three other stories in the 'Nights' bear some affinity to the above,
but they are much more limited, both as regards the subject they deal
with and the information they supply. One is 'King Jali'ad and his
vizier Shimas,' in Payne's eighth and Burton's ninth volume; another,
'History of Al-Hajjaj bin Yusuf and the young Sayyid,' in Burton's
fifth supplemental; and the third, 'The Duenna and the King's Son,' in
his sixth supplemental.
The Rogueries of Dalilah the Crafty, and her daughter, Zeynab the
Trickstress.--The tricks played by Dalilah the Crafty on all sorts of
people in this story are of a nature that would make the tale amusing
to the Arabs generally, and to the frequenters of coffee-houses
particularly. Dalilah's father and husband had held lucrative
appointments under the Khalifs of Baghdad, and, with a view to obtain
something for herself and her daughter Zeynab, these two women
determined to bring themselves to notice by playing tricks, and doing
things which were likely to be talked of in the great city. In Europe
at the present time the same method is often followed. Attempted
assassinations, attempted suicides, complaints in the police-courts
and cases in the law-courts are sometimes meant simply as an
advertisement. Anyhow, Dalilah's tricks played on various people
are certainly amusing, and as they run ingeniously one into the other,
it is somewhat difficult to describe them in a few words. The tale, to
be appreciated, must be read through. Sufficient to add that Dalilah
and Zeynab both eventually obtain what they wish, and the various
things taken from the different parties are duly returned to them.
[Footnote 7: As an example take the following extract
from the _Daily Telegraph_ of 16th July, 1889:
'The sisters Macdonald have been giving a great deal more
trouble to the police lately than even the bearers of so
historic a name are entitled to give. Ethel Macdonald
appeared at Marlborough Street charged with having wilfully
smashed a window at the Junior Carlton Club, St. James's
Square. It was stated that the aggressive Ethel was one of
the daughters of an ex-superintendent of county constabulary
deceased, and that his daughters, being left unprovided for,
had taken to going on the "rampage." One of the sisters
alleges that she has been wronged by "a rich man," and a
short time since another Miss Macdonald, on being arraigned
before Mr. Newton, flung a bottle at the head of that
learned magistrate. Ethel was discharged, but it was ordered
that she should be sent to the workhouse for inquiries to be
made into her state of mind.']
The Adventures of Quicksilver Ali of Cairo.--This story is of the same
nature as the preceding one, and in all the editions of the 'Nights'
the one always follows the other, while in the Breslau text the two
stories run together. Ali begins life at Cairo, and ends at Baghdad,
where his tricks and adventures follow each other in rapid succession,
his object being to obtain in marriage the hand of Zeynab, the
daughter of Dalilah the Crafty. He is first tricked himself by Zeynab,
but continues his pursuit of her, and though at times he is
transformed into the shapes of an ass, a bear, and a dog by the magic
arts of Azariah the Jew, eventually he succeeds, with the aid of the
Jew's daughter, in obtaining the property required, and finally
marries Zeynab, the Jewess, and two other women.
Hasan of Busra and the King's Daughter of the Jinn.--This is a good
specimen of a real Oriental romance, with the wonderful and marvellous
adventures of the hero interlaced with magic, alchemy, the Jinns, and
other fabulous varieties, so that the highest ideals of the
imagination are almost arrived at.
Bahram the Magician, who first beguiles Hasan with alchemy and then
carries him off and endeavours to destroy him, is himself destroyed in
the early part of the story. The kindness of the seven princesses to
Hasan during his stay with them, and his visits to them later on, are
described at length, as also is the way in which the hero falls
desperately in love with the king's daughter of the Jinn, and secures
her as his bride. The happy pair start for Busra, and rejoin his
mother, and then settle down in Baghdad, where two sons are born and
happiness reigns supreme. But during Hasan's absence on a visit to his
former friends the seven princesses, some domestic scenes between his
wife, his mother, and Zobeidah, the spouse of the Khalif
Harun-ar-Rashid, are introduced, which end by the wife re-possessing
herself of her original feather garment, and flying off with her two
children to the islands of Wac, where her father and family resided.
On his return Hasan is broken-hearted to find her gone, and determines
to set out and try and recover her. Then follows the description of
his journeys, which fill pages describing the white country, and the
black mountain, the land of camphor, and the castle of crystal. The
islands of Wac were seven in number, peopled by Satans and Marids, and
warlocks and tribesmen of the Jinn. To reach them Hasan has to
traverse the island of birds, the land of beasts, and the valley of
Jinn. Without the aid of the princesses, their uncle Abdul-cuddous,
Abourruweish, Dehnesh ben Fectesh, Hassoun, king of the land of
Camphor, and the old woman Shawahi, he never would have reached his
destination. This, however, he finally does, and with the aid of a
magic cup and wand recovers his wife and children, and returns with
them to Baghdad, where they live happily ever afterwards, till there
came to them the Creditor whose debt must always be paid sooner or
later, the Destroyer of delights, and the Severer of societies.
Ali Nur Al-din and Miriam the Girdle-Girl (called by Payne, the Frank
King's Daughter).--The adventures of Ali with Miriam, whom he first
buys as a slave-girl in Alexandria, and from whom he is separated and
re-united, again separated and again united, are told at some length.
But the principal features in this tale are the innumerable verses in
praise of various fruits, flowers, wine, women, musical instruments,
the beauty of the hero, etc., and on the subjects of love, union,
separation, etc. Miriam herself is a charming character of
self-reliance and independence. On her first appearance in the slave
market, at the time of her sale, she declines to be purchased by the
old men, and abuses their age and their infirmities. Indeed, she
seemed to be of the same opinion as our great national poet, who
'Crabbed age and youth
Cannot live together;
Youth is full of plaisance,
Age is full of care;
Youth like summer morn,
Age like winter weather;
Youth like summer brave,
Age like winter bare.
Youth is full of sport,
Age's breath is short,
Youth is nimble, age is lame;
Youth is hot and bold,
Age is weak and cold,
Youth is wild and age is tame.
Age, I do abhor thee;
Youth, I do adore thee;
O my love, my love is young;
Age, I do defy thee,
O sweet shepherd, hie thee,
For methinks thou stay'st too long'.
However, she finally consents to be bought by the young and
good-looking Ali, who spends his last thousand dinars in her purchase,
and then has nothing to live upon. Miriam remedies this by making every
night a beautiful girdle, which Ali sells for a good price in the
bazaar next day. This goes on for upwards of a year, when the first
separation is brought about by the crafty old Wazir of her father, the
King of France, who had sent him especially to look for his daughter.
In the course of the adventures that follow, Miriam shows her capacity
in sailing ships and in killing various men, among others her three
brothers, who pursued her in her last flight from her father's city.
Eventually she and Ali get to Baghdad, where the Khalif makes things
smooth for them, and they are married, and finally return to Cairo to
rejoin Ali's parents, from whom he had run away in his youth.
Kamar Al-Zaman and the Jeweller's Wife is one of the modern tales of
the 'Nights,' and a very good one, containing a good plot and plenty
of interesting incidents. The jeweller's wife, Halimah by name, is one
of the wickedest and craftiest of women in Busra, and her plots and
intrigues are well described; some of them are to be found in Persian
story-books. After playing all sorts of tricks, she leaves her
husband, and elopes with the youth Kamar to Cairo, where his parents
reside. There his father will not let him marry her, but confines her
and her slave-girl in a room, and arranges a marriage for his son with
another woman. After a time Halimah's husband, Obayd, the jeweller,
turns up in Cairo in the most beggarly plight, having been plundered
by Bedouins _en route_. After explanations, Obayd ends by killing
his wife and her slave-girl, who had assisted her in all her
devilries, and Kanar's father marries him to his daughter, who turns
out the most virtuous of women. The moral of the tale is pointed out
at the end, that there are both bad women and good women in the world,
and is closed with the remark: 'So he who deemeth all women to be
alike, there is no remedy for the disease of his insanity.'
Ma'aruf the Cobbler and his wife Fatimah commences with a domestic
scene between the two, from which it appears that the poor husband had
been shamefully sat upon from the day of his marriage, and that his
wife was a dreadful woman. Affairs, however, at last reach a climax,
and Ma'aruf seeks peace and safety in flight. Balzac, in his clever
novel of 'Le Contrat de Mariage,' makes his hero Manerville fly from
the machinations of his wife and mother-in-law, but Henri de Marsay,
writing to his friend pages on the subject, contends that he is wrong,
and points out to him the course that he should have followed. Anyhow,
in Ma'aruf the Cobbler's case, the result is satisfactory. Arriving by
the aid of a Jinn at a far-away city, he found a friend, who directed
him how to behave, and to tell everybody that he was a great and
wealthy merchant, but that his merchandise was still on the way, and
expected daily. Pending the arrival of his baggage-train, Ma'aruf
borrowed from everybody, gave it all away in largesse to the poor, and
behaved generally as if he were very well-to-do. By these means he
made such an impression on the King of the place that the latter
married him to his daughter, and made large advances from the treasury
in anticipation of the arrival of the merchandise.
Time goes on, but still the baggage does not turn up. The King,
instigated by his Wazir, becomes suspicious, and persuades his
daughter to worm out the real story from her husband. This she does in
a clever way, and Ma'aruf tells her his true history. The woman
behaves admirably, refuses to expose his vagaries, and, giving him
fifty thousand dinars, advises him to fly to a foreign country, to
begin to trade there, and to keep her informed of his whereabouts and
the turn of his fortunes. The Cobbler departs during the night, while
his wife the next morning tells the King and the Wazir a long
rigmarole story of how her husband had been summoned by his servants,
who had informed him that his baggage-train and merchandise had been
attacked by the Arabs, and that he had gone himself to look after his
Meanwhile Ma'aruf departs sore at heart, weeping bitterly, and, like
all 'Arabian Nights' heroes in adversity, repeating countless verses.
After various adventures he falls in with a vast treasure, and a
casket containing a seal ring of gold, which, when rubbed, causes the
slave of the seal ring, naturally a Jinn, to appear and carry out
every wish and order that Ma'aruf might give him. With the aid, then,
of the Jinn, Abu Al-Saddat by name, the Cobbler returns to his wife
laden with treasure and merchandise, and thus proves to all the
doubters that he is a true man. He pays all his debts, gives a great
deal to the poor, and bestows presents of an enormous value on his
wife, her attendants, and all the people of the Court.
As a matter of course, all this prosperity is followed by adversity.
The King and his Wazir combine together, and ask Ma'aruf to a
garden-party, make him drunk, and get him to relate the story of his
success. Recklessly he shows the ring to the Wazir, who gets hold of
it, rubs it, and on the appearance of the slave of the ring, orders him
to carry off the Cobbler and cast him down in the desert. The Wazir then
orders the King to be treated in the same way, while he himself seizes
the Sultanate, and aspires to marry Ma'aruf's wife, the King's
With much interesting detail the story relates how the Princess Dunya
gets the ring into her possession, sends the Wazir to prison, and
rescues her father and her husband from the desert. The Wazir is then
put to death, and the ring is kept by the lady, as she thinks it would
be safer in her keeping than in that of her relations. After this a
son is born, the King dies, Ma'aruf succeeds to the throne, and
shortly after loses his wife, who before her death gives him back the
ring, and urges him to take good care of it for his own sake and for
the sake of his boy.
Time goes on, and the Cobbler's first wife, Fatimah, turns up in town,
brought there also by a Jinn, and tells the story of the want and
suffering she had undergone since his departure from Cairo. Ma'aruf
treats her generously, and sets her up in a palace with a separate
establishment, but the wickedness of the woman reappears, and she
tries to get hold of the ring for her own purposes. Just as she has
secured it she is cut down and killed on the spot by Ma'aruf's son,
who had been watching her proceedings, and is thus finally disposed
of. The King and his son then marry, and live happily in the manner of
Eastern story, all the other characters being properly provided for.
So much for the 'Nights' proper. Other stories translated from the
Breslau text (a Tunisian manuscript acquired, collated and translated
by Professor Habicht, of Breslau, Von der Hagen, and another; 15
volumes, 12mo., Breslau, 1825), the Calcutta fragment of 1814-1818,
and other sources, have been given by Payne in three extra volumes
entitled 'Tales from the Arabic,' and by Burton in two of his six
volumes of the 'Supplemental Nights.' Payne's three books and Burton's
two first volumes follow the same lines. They both contain twenty
principal, and sixty-four subordinate stories, or eighty-four
altogether, divided into nine short stories and seventy-five longer
ones. Some of them are very interesting, and some are amusing,
especially a few of the sixteen Constables' Stories, which describe
the cleverness of women, and the adroitness of thieves, and people of
that class. It is probable that these are more or less of a modern
The first story in this collection, called 'The Sleeper and the
Waker,' commonly known as 'The Sleeper Awakened,' is good, and also
particularly interesting as one of Galland's stories not traced at the
time, but afterwards turning up in the Tunis text of the 'Nights.'
The third volume of Burton's 'Supplemental Nights' is one of the most
interesting of the whole lot. It contains eight principal and four
subordinate stories of Galland's 'Contes Arabes,' which are not
included in the Calcutta, Boulak, or Breslau editions of the 'Nights.'
For many years the sources from which Galland procured these tales
were unknown. Some said that he invented them himself. Others
conjectured that he got them from the story-tellers in Constantinople
and other places in the East. But in A.D. 1886 Mr. H. Zotenberg, the
keeper of Eastern Manuscripts in the Bibliotheque Nationale at Paris,
obtained a manuscript copy of the "Nights," which contained the Arabic
originals of the stories of "Zayn Al Asnam," and of "Aladdin," two of
Galland's best stories. This was a very valuable acquisition, for it
sets at rest the doubts that had always been expressed about the
origin of these two tales, and also leads to the supposition that the
Arabic originals of the other stories will also turn up some day.
Of these eight principal and four subordinate stories of Galland,
those of "Aladdin; or, The Wonderful Lamp," and of "Ali Baba and the
Forty Thieves," have ever been most popular tales, and have been
appreciated by many generations from the time that Galland first
introduced them to Europe. But some of the other stories are equally
good, and all are worth reading, as Burton has not only taken Galland
as a guide, but has also adapted his own translation from the
Hindustani version of the Gallandian tales, prepared by one Totaram
Shayan, whose texts of the "Nights," along with those of others, are
fully discussed. By this method Burton endeavoured to preserve the
Oriental flavour of the work itself, without introducing too much
After the discovery of the Arabic original of the stories of
"Zayn Al-Asnam" and "Aladdin," Payne recognized its importance, and
published his translation of these two tales in a separate volume in
1889, which forms a sort of appendix to his previously issued twelve
volumes. This thirteenth book contains also an interesting introduction,
giving a _resume_ of Mr. Zotenberg's work, published at Paris in 1888,
and which contains the Arab text of the story of Aladdin, along with
an exhaustive notice of certain manuscripts of the "Thousand and One
Nights," and of Galland's translation.
The fourth and fifth volumes of Burton's "Supplemental Nights" contain
certain new stories from an Arabic manuscript of the "Nights" in seven
volumes, brought to Europe by Edward Wortley Montague, Esq., and
bought at the sale of his library by Dr. Joseph White, Professor of
Hebrew and Arabic at Oxford, from whom it passed into the hands of Dr.
Jonathan Scott, who sold it to the Bodleian Library, at Oxford, for
Wortley Montague's manuscript contains many additional tales not
included in the Calcutta, Boulak, or Breslau editions, and these
additional stories Burton has now translated. It is uncertain how or
where Wortley Montague obtained his copy of the 'Thousand and One
Nights.' Dr. White had at one time intended to translate the whole
lot, but this was never accomplished. Jonathan Scott did, however,
translate some of the stories, which were published in the sixth
volume of his 'Arabian Nights Entertainment' in A.D. 1811, but the
work was badly and incompletely done. It has now been thoroughly
revised and put into better form by Burton in these two volumes.
In Appendix I. to Volume V. there is a catalogue of the contents of
the Wortley Montague MS., which is very interesting, as it contains
not only a description of the manuscript itself, but also a complete
list of the tales making up the "Thousand and One Nights," many of
which are, of course, to be found in the "Nights" proper.
These two supplemental volumes contain 25 principal and 31 subordinate
stories, or 56 in all. Some of them are very amusing, especially the
tales of the Larrikins, while the whole add to our knowledge of this
vast repertoire of tales from the East, which has been gradually
brought to the notice of Europe during the last one hundred and
Burton's sixth supplemental volume contains certain stories taken from
a book of Arabian tales, a continuation of the 'Arabian Nights
Entertainment,' brought out by Dom Chavis, a Syrian priest, and
eventually teacher of Arabic at the University of Paris, and Mr.
Jacques Cazotte, a well-known French _litterateur,_ unfortunately and
unjustly guillotined in Paris on the 25th September, 1792, at the time
of the Revolution.
This work, sometimes called 'The New Arabian Nights,' is an imitation
of Galland's marvellous production, and may be considered a sort of
continuation of it. Dom Chavis brought the manuscripts to France, and
agreed with Mr. Cazotte to collaborate, the former translating the
Arabic into French, and the latter metamorphosing the manner and
matter to the style and taste of the day. The work first appeared in
1788-89, and was translated into English in 1792.
Burton, in his Foreword to this volume, gives a full account of these
stories, as translated and edited by Chavis and Cazotte. He himself
gives a translation of eight of them, one of which, The Linguist, the
Duenna, and the King's Son, is interesting, as it contains a series of
conundrums, questions and answers, which may remind the reader of the
story of Abu Al-Husn and his slave-girl Tawaddud, in the 'Nights'
proper, and of the history of Al-Hajjaj bin Yusuf and the young
Sayyid, from the Wortley Montague MS. In addition to the eight
translated stories, the sixth volume contains a great deal of matter
in the shape of appendices, such as--Notes on Zotenberg's work on
Aladdin and on various manuscripts of the 'Nights'; Biography of the
work and its Reviewers Reviewed; Opinions of the Press, etc.; but
though well worthy of perusal by the curious, space does not allow of
further allusions to them here.
To sum up, then, shortly, Payne's thirteen volumes contain 193
principal, and 159 subordinate stories, or 352 in all, while Burton's
sixteen volumes contain 231 principal, and 195 subordinate stories, or
426 altogether. These numerous stories, translated from the Calcutta
(1814-18), Calcutta Macnaghten (1839-42), Boulak (Cairo, 1835-36),
Breslau (Tunis), Wortley Montague, Galland and Chavis texts may be
considered to form what is commonly called 'The Arabian Nights
Entertainment.' They date from A.D. 750, which may be considered as
the year of their commencement and that of the Abbaside dynasty, and
go on, continually added to, up to A.D. 1600, or even later. Many
authors have had a hand in the work, the stories themselves having
been derived from Indian, Persian, Arabian, Egyptian, Syrian and
Grecian sources, and adapted, more or less, for Arab readers and
hearers. And as the manuscripts in some of these stories in different
countries do not in any way tally, it must be supposed that no such
work as an original copy of the 'Thousand and One Nights' has ever
been in existence. The repertoire, consisting of a few stories at
first, has gradually grown to such a size that now it may almost be
considered to contain the largest and best collection of stories that
the world has, as yet seen.
Mention has been already made in a previous page of the 'Katha Sarit
Sagara,' or Ocean of the Streams of Story, and a brief description of
this work was given in the third chapter of 'Early Ideas' (A.D. 1881).
Since then a complete translation of the 'Katha' has been made by
Professor C.H. Tawney, of the Calcutta College, and it has been
published in fourteen fasciculi, in the 'Bibliotheca Indica,' by the
Asiatic Society of Bengal, 1880-1887. It is to be regretted, for the
sake of the student and the anthropologist, that the translation is
presented in an expurgated form. Still, the Professor has done his
work (and a long and tedious work it must have been) excessively well,
while many of his notes, corrigenda and addenda are most interesting.
The 'Arabian Nights' and the 'Katha Sarit Sagara' occupy respectively
the same position in Arabic and Hindoo literature. They are both
collections of tales adapted to the people of the country for which
they have been written. A perusal of both the works will show how much
they differ. The characters and ideas of the heroes and heroines,
their thoughts, reflections, speeches, surroundings, and situations
are worth studying in the two books as an exposition of the manners
and customs, ideas and habits of two distinct peoples. The Hindoo
characters, as depicted in their story-book, will be found to be
duller, heavier, more reverential, and more superstitious than the
characters in the 'Nights.' There are two things, however, common to
the two books: the power of destiny, and the power of love, against
which it is apparently useless to struggle.
While there are 426 stories in Burton's 'Nights,' there are 330 tales
of sorts in Tawney's 'Katha.' Both works are rather formidable as
regards size and quantity of matter; still, after a start has been
fairly made, the interest goes on increasing in a wonderful way, until
at last one becomes absorbed and interested to a degree that can
scarcely be imagined.
The stories in the 'Katha Sarit Sagara' are supposed to have been
originally composed by one Gunadhya, in the Paisacha language, and
made known in Sanscrit under the title of 'Vrihat Katha,' or Great
Tale. From this work one Bhatta Somadeva, in the eleventh century
A.D., prepared the work now known as the 'Katha Sarit Sagara,' but
probably stories have been added to it since. At present it consists
of eighteen books, divided into one hundred and twenty-four chapters,
and containing three hundred and thirty stories, along with other
matter. Of Gunadhya, the supposed original author, not much is known,
but Vatsyayana, in his 'Kama Sutra' (printed privately for the Kama
Shastra Society) mentions the name of Gunadhya as a writer whose works
he had consulted, and gives frequent quotations from them in his
chapter on the duties of a wife. The exact date of Vatsyayana's life
is also uncertain; some time not earlier than the first century B.C.,
and not later than the sixth century A.D., is considered to be the
approximate period of his existence.
Like the 'Arabian Nights,' it is highly probable that the 'Katha' grew
by degrees to its present size. Gunadhya's original work is apparently
not now extant. Between the time it was written and the time that
Somadeva produced his edition of it, many stories may have been added,
and the same process may have continued afterwards. Somadeva, however,
says: 'I compose this collection, which contains the pith of the
"Vrihat Katha."' Again he writes: 'This book is precisely on the model
of that from which it is taken; there is not the slightest deviation;
only such language is selected as tends to abridge the prolixity of
the work; the observance of propriety and natural connection, and the
joining together of the portions of the poem so as not to interfere
with the spirit of the stories, are as far as possible kept in view. I
have not made this attempt through desire of a reputation for
ingenuity, but in order to facilitate the recollection of a multitude
of various tales.'
The 'Katha Sarit Sagara' contains many stories now existing in the
'Pancha Tantra,' or Five Chapters, in the 'Hitopodesa,' or Friendly
Advice, in the 'Baital Pachesi,' or Twenty-five Stories of a Demon,
and other Indian story-books. Owing to the total absence of dates it
is difficult to determine from what sources all these stories were
collected. But as some of the same fables and animal stories are to be
found in the 'Buddhist Birth Stories,' or Jataka Tales, in the
'Arabian Nights,' and in the 'Katha,' it may fairly be conjectured
that stories of this nature were in early years in considerable
circulation, and used as a means of conveying wisdom and advice both
to the classes and to the masses in those prehistoric times.
To return to Arab story-books. Mention must be made of 'Antar,' a
Bedouin romance, which has been partially translated from the Arabic
into English by Terrick Hamilton, Secretary to the British Embassy at
Constantinople, and published in London (1820). Mr. Clouston, in his
'Arabian Poetry for English Readers,' Glasgow, 1881, has given an
abstract of the story, with some specimens of translations from the
The work itself is generally supposed to have been written by
Al-Asmai, the philologist and grammarian (born A.D. 740, died A.D.
831), who flourished at the court of Harun-ar-Rashid, and was a great
celebrity in his time. It is probable that many of the stories told
about Antar and his wonderful deeds came down orally and traditionally
to Al-Asmai, who embellished them with his own imagination, aided by a
wonderful knowledge of the language and idioms used by the Arabs in
their desert wilds.
Antar is the hero, and Abla the heroine, of the romance. Antar himself
is supposed to have lived during the sixth century A.D., and to have
been the author of one of the seven famous poems suspended at Mecca,
and known as the Mua'llakat. Besides this he was distinguished as a
great warrior, whose deeds of daring were quite marvellous. The
translator had intended to divide the work into three parts. The first
ends with the marriage of Antar and Abla, to attain which many
difficulties had to be overcome. The second part includes the period
when Antar suspends his poem at Mecca, also a work of considerable
difficulty. The third part gives the hero's travels, conquests, and
death. Mr. Hamilton only translated and published the first part of
the three, and the two others have not yet been done into English.
The romance of Antar, though tedious, is interesting, as it gives full
details of the life of the Arabs before Muhammad's time, and even
after, for the Arab life of to-day is apparently much the same as it
was three thousand years ago. It appears to be an existence made up of
continual wanderings, constant feud and faction, and perpetual
struggles for food, independence and plunder. But in the deserts on
the frontiers of Syria, Palestine, Mesopotamia and Baghdad, it is said
that the various tribes are now kept much more in subjection by the
Turks, owing to the introduction of the breech-loader, against which
the Arab and his matchlock and his peculiar mode of warfare is
While the 'Arabian Nights' are supposed to treat more of the
inhabitants of the towns, the romance of Antar deals more with the
inhabitants of the desert. To the student of the Arabic language both
works are interesting, as they occupy a prominent and standard place
in Arabian literature, and afford much information about the manners
and customs, ideas and peculiarities of an ancient and interesting
race of people. It must be admitted that both Antar and the 'Arabian
Nights' are so long that they rather try the patience of readers not
particularly interested in them. Nowadays in England the daily press
supplies such a mass of information of all sorts in connection with
every branch of society, that a constant and persistent reader of our
daily and weekly newspapers can find in them quite an 'Arabian Nights
Entertainment' without going further afield. Indeed, the stories
concerning the cures effected by certain patent medicines are as
wonderful as anything one ever reads in the 'Nights' themselves.
And in addition to the realities and actualities of life, as daily
told in our newspapers and law reports, many of which do certainly
prove that fact is stranger than fiction, there are numerous writers
who keep the public supplied with tales and stories of every kind and
description. And from the great demand for such productions, whether
issued as the penny dreadful, the thrilling story, or the regulation
romance in three volumes, one conclusion can only be drawn, which
is--that the human mind, everywhere in the East, West, North and South,
is always anxious to be fed or amused with something startling or
romantic, dreadful or improbable, exciting or depressing.
It is to be presumed, then, that the 'Nights' filled the vacuum in the
minds of the people of that day in the East, much the same as the
books and newspapers of our time satisfy the cravings of the
humanities of the West, who still seem to be ever in search of
something new, even if not true; something original, even if not
trustworthy. Human nature appears to be much the same in all ages and
at all times, and the scandals connected with high persons, the
memoirs and reminiscences of celebrated ones, and the good sayings of
witty ones, have always found much favour with the public generally,
whether told as stories, published as books, or printed in the papers.
Arabic literature abounds with biographical details and stories about
celebrated and distinguished men. It was always the custom and fashion
to fill their works with much information of the kind. The same
fashion appears to exist in England at the present time, with this
advantage, however, that we now get all the details and stories direct
from the heroes themselves, and during their lifetime.
ANECDOTES AND ANA.
In Persian literature there are three celebrated works (Sa'di's
'Gulistan,' or Rose Garden, A.D. 1258; Jawini's 'Negaristan,' or
Portrait Gallery, A.D. 1334; and Jami's 'Beharistan,' or Abode of
Spring, A.D. 1487, all translated by the Kama Shastra Society),
containing an entertaining collection of stories, verses, and moral
maxims. In Arabic literature there are many books of the same sort,
and in this chapter it is proposed to give a few specimens of stories
and philosophic reflections culled from various authors. This will
perhaps be more interesting than a lengthened analysis of the works
The following anecdotes have been taken from the 'Naphut-ul-Yaman'
(Breeze or Breath of Yaman), a collection of stories and poetical
extracts of various Arabic authors, edited by Ahmad-ash-Shirwani.
Al-Jahiz said: 'I never was put so much to shame as when a woman met
me on the road and said, "I have some business with you," and I
followed her till we reached the shop of a goldsmith, when she said,
"Like this man," and walked away. I stood amazed, and asked the
goldsmith to explain the matter. He replied: "This woman wanted me to
make her a figure of Satan, and I told her that I did not know his
physiognomy; whereon she brought you!"'
A voracious man paid a visit to a hermit, who brought him four loaves,
and then went to fetch a dish of beans; but when he had come with it,
he found that his guest had consumed the bread. Accordingly he
departed to bring some more bread, but when he returned with it he saw
that the man had devoured the beans. This proceeding was repeated ten
times, whereon the host asked his guest to what place he was
travelling. He replied, 'To Rei.' 'Wherefore?' 'I heard of a
celebrated physician in that town, and I mean to consult him about my
stomach, because I have but little appetite for eating.' 'I have a
request to make of you.' 'What is it?' 'When you return, after having
recovered your appetite, please do not pay me a visit again.'
One day the poet Abu Nuwas made his appearance at the gate of the
palace of Rashid, who, as soon as he was informed of this, called for
eggs, and said to his courtiers: 'Here is Abu Nuwas at the door. Now
let each of you take an egg and place it under his body, and when he
enters I shall feign to be angry with all of you, and shall exclaim:
"Now lay eggs each of you, and if you do not I shall order you all to
be beheaded," and we shall see how he will behave.' Then the poet was
admitted, and the conversation continued. After a while, however, the
Khalif became angry, and manifested his displeasure by exclaiming:
'You are all like hens, and meddle with things that do concern you;
now lay eggs each of you, for that is your nature, or I shall order
your heads to be struck off.' Then he looked at the courtier on his
right, saying: 'You are the first; now lay an egg.' Accordingly he
made great efforts, and contorting his features, at last drew forth an
egg. Then the Khalif addressed the others successively in the same
manner, and when the turn of Abu Nuwas came, he struck his sides with
his hands, and crowing like a cock, said: 'My lord, hens are useless
without a cock. These are hens, and I am their cock.' Hereon the
Khalif burst out laughing, and approved of his excuse.
A certain king was much addicted to women, and one of his viziers
warned him of the danger. Shortly afterwards some of his concubines
observed that his behaviour towards them had changed, and one of them
said: 'My lord, what is this?' He replied: 'One of my viziers
(mentioning his name) advised me not to love you.' 'Then,' said the
girl, 'present me to him, O king, and do not reveal what I shall do to
him.' Accordingly he gave the girl away, and when the vizier was alone
with her, she made herself so amiable that he fell in love with her,
but she refused to grant him any favour except on condition of
allowing her first to ride on his back. He agreed. Accordingly she
bridled and saddled him, but meanwhile sent word to the king what was
taking place; and when he arrived he saw the vizier in the position
alluded to, and said: 'You warned me of the love of woman, and this is
the state I see you in.' The vizier replied: 'O king! this is just
what I warned you of!'
Once a lion, a fox, and a wolf were associates in the chase, and after
they had killed an ass, a gazelle, and a hare, the lion said to the
wolf: 'Divide the prey among us;' whereon the latter said: 'The ass
will be yours, the hare the fox's, and the gazelle mine;' and the lion
knocked his eye out. Then the fox said: 'A curse on him, what a silly
division he proposed!' Accordingly the lion said: 'Then do you make
the division, O possessor of the brush!' And the fox said: 'The ass
will be for your dinner, the gazelle for your supper, and the hare for
your luncheon.' The lion said: 'You rogue! who taught you to make such
a just distribution?' and Reynard answered, 'The eye of the wolf.'
A certain king asked his vizier whether habit can vanquish nature, or
nature habit? The vizier replied: 'Nature is stronger, because it is a
root, and habit a branch, and every branch returns to its root.' Now
the king called for wine, and a number of cats made their appearance
with candles in their paws, and stood around him; then he said to the
vizier: 'Do you perceive your mistake in saying that nature is
stronger than habit?' The vizier replied: 'Give me time till this
evening.' The king continued: 'You shall have it.' Accordingly the
vizier appeared in the evening with a mouse in his sleeve, and when
the cats were standing with their candles, he allowed it to slip out,
whereon all the cats threw down the candles and ran after it, so that
the house was nearly set on fire. Then the vizier said: 'Behold, O
king, how nature overcomes habit, and how the branch returns to the
The 'Merzuban namah,' translated from the Persian into Arabic, is said
to be of very ancient origin, and to embody good maxims in fables. It
was composed, or is supposed to have been composed, by one of the old
princes of Persia called Merzuban, a brother of the King Nausherwan
the Just, who died A.D. 578. On referring to the great encyclopaedical
and bibliographical dictionary, edited by Fluegel, it will be found,
under No. 11,783, that Haji Khalfa mentions this book, giving,
however, its title only, without mentioning the time of its
composition, nor the author of it, nor the language in which it had
been written. The following are some extracts from this work, and the
stories resemble others that have come from the Farther East.
The philosopher Merzuban said: 'I am informed that in a certain
district of Aderbaijan there is a mountain as high as the sky, with
fine brooks, trees, fruits and herbs. Under the shelter of one of the
most beautiful trees a pair of partridges lived most happily, but in
the vicinity there was likewise a powerful eagle with his brood, who
periodically visited the abode of the partridges and devoured their
young ones. When the pair had thus several times lost their progeny,
the male proposed that it would either be necessary for them to
emigrate to some other locality, or to try some expedient by which
they might escape from the rapacity of the eagle. He was of opinion
that even in case of failure they might gain some valuable experience
that would be of use in future attempts to elude the persecution, and
said: "We must at all events make a trial, and may learn something
from it, like the donkey who endeavoured to become the companion of
the camel." The she-partridge asked, "How was that?" and the male
'"Once a donkey tried to keep up walking with a big camel, who paced
lustily, and took long steps, but the ass, being in a hurry, stumbled
every moment, and found that he had undertaken an impossible task. He
asked the camel, 'How is it I wound my hoofs on the rocks so often,
although I constantly look where I am stepping; whilst you, who
apparently walk with leisure, never cast a glance at any of the
obstacles you meet with, and never hurt yourself?' The camel replied:
'The reason is just because you are short-sighted and of weak
intellect; you can look no further than your nose, and are, therefore,
disappointed; whereas I look always forward, know the obstacles I am
likely to encounter, scan the road to a great distance, and avoid the
difficulties, selecting the easiest parts of the way.'" The wise hen
said: "To be forewarned is to be forearmed, and this principle I
follow." "I have narrated this story to show you that we must look
forward, now that the time of laying eggs is at hand, because when our
little ones are hatched it may again be too late to try and save
'The female partridge said: "This is all very well, but we might fare
like the hungry fox who would have lost his life if the ichneumon had
not interceded for him with the camel." The male said "How was that?"
and the female continued:
'"It is related that a certain fox had a fine large den, in which he
collected provisions for the winter and for the summer, fared
sumptuously, and never suffered from want. Once, however, a large army
of ants invaded his domicile, and made short work of all the victuals
he had carefully stored. This misfortune befel him just at a time when
the weather happened to be very cold and food scarce, so that he began
to feel the pangs of hunger. One morning, however, when he was about
to sally forth from his den, he perceived, to his no small
astonishment, at the mouth of it a camel kneeling, with the hinder
part of his body turned towards him. The fox said to himself, 'Here is
good luck,' and made a foolhardy attempt to drag the animal into the
cave by tying a rope to its tail, and to commence pulling at it with
all his might. To make sure of his prey the fox had tied the other end
of the rope to his own body, but when he began to jerk it rather
strongly the camel became vexed, jumped up suddenly, and first
discharging both urine and dung upon Reynard, began to shake himself
violently. The fox dangled in the air, and was repeatedly knocked
against the flanks of the gigantic animal. Then the fox repented of
his silly attempt to feast on camel meat, and knew that his
death-knell would shortly sound. Luckily an ichneumon happened to be
standing close by, amazed at the strange spectacle, and the fox
implored it to intercede for him. Accordingly, the ichneumon addressed
the camel in the following strain: 'Friend giant! it is meet that the
strong, hoping for an eternal reward, should have mercy upon the weak!
Here is a poor stranger who has accidentally become entangled with
your tail. He will be strangled; you may save his life and become his
deliverer by letting him go.' The camel then released the fox, who
would assuredly have lost his life if the ichneumon had not interceded
for him." When the male partridge had heard this story he fully
approved of the moral of it, which is to the effect that ignorant and
weak individuals are generally foiled in their designs against those
who are powerful. He therefore considered that it would be best to
throw themselves upon the mercy of the eagle, and said: "We must pay a
visit to his majesty the eagle, explain our case to him, implore his
mercy, and enroll ourselves among the number of his servants. We may
succeed by gaining his favour; he is the king of all the birds, and
carnivorous, but for all we know his disposition may be so merciful
that he will spare our offspring not only himself, but order all the
other birds of prey, his subjects, to do likewise."
'Then the she-partridge exclaimed: "Your advice is indeed wonderful!
You propose nothing less than that we should court our own perdition,
and of our own accord run into a trap! The eagle in treacherous, and
would deal with us like the heron dealt with the little fish." The
male said, "Please narrate the occurrence," and the female continued:
'"A heron had taken up his abode, and had lived for a long time near a
brook on the little fishes there. At last, however, he became so old
and weak that he was scarcely able to provide his daily food. He was
once standing in a melancholy attitude on the bank of the streamlet,
waiting for a chance to satisfy his hunger, when he happened to catch
sight of a beautiful little fish disporting itself in the water, and
mourned over his inability to get hold of it. The little fish
perceived the heron standing immovable, and apparently taking not the
least notice of it; therefore it gradually ventured to approach him,
and asked the cause of his melancholy. The heron replied, 'I am
reflecting upon the time of my youth which has passed away, the life I
enjoyed, the pleasures I felt, all of which are irretrievably lost,
and have left behind nothing but repentance for my sins, a weak body,
and tottering limbs. I can now only regret the depredations I have
committed, and wash away with my tears the stains of my
transgressions. How often have I given occasion, both to little fishes
and to eels, to deplore the loss of members of their families, which I
had greedily devoured; but I have now repented, and shall henceforth
do so no more.' When the little fish had heard this wonderful
confession it asked: 'What can I do for you?' The heron replied: 'I
want you only to convey this declaration of mine, with my salutations,
to all your acquaintances, with the information that they may
henceforth live in perfect safety, and need not apprehend any
depredations on my part. There must, however, be covenants and pledges
of security between us.' The little fish asked: 'How can I trust you,
since I am the food on which you subsist, and you cannot be inclined
to dispense with that.' He said: 'Take this grass and tie it round my
neck for a sign that I shall not injure you.' Accordingly, the little
fish took hold of a blade of grass, which was to serve for the heron's
collar, who then placed his beak near the surface of the water to
receive it, but as soon as the little fish had come within reach, the
heron gobbled it up, and this was the end of the promised pledge. My
dear husband, I have narrated this occurrence only to show that we
would, by trusting to any promises of magnanimity that the eagle might
make to us, only court our own perdition."
'In spite of all her objections, however, the she-partridge agreed at
last to accompany her husband to the court of the eagle. They started
together, travelled for some time, arrived at his abode, and made
their obeisance to a courtier whose name was Yuyu, whom the male
partridge addressed as follows: "Most noble lord, we are denizens of
an adjoining mountain, where we lived happily till his majesty the
eagle crushed all our hopes by making his appearance on our mountain
with his court of birds of prey, destroyed our young on several
successive occasions, and reduced us to despair. I proposed to my wife
to emigrate, and she at last consented, so that we have now arrived
here and placed ourselves under the wings of your protection."' Yuyu
was pleased with these words, and replied: "I bid you welcome, and
approve of your sagacity which induced you to seek a refuge at the
court of our most noble sovereign. I must, however, tell you that
although his disposition is righteous, he feeds upon the meat of
animals, but when the weak and helpless crave his mercy, or implore
his aid, he seldom disappoints them; those, on the contrary, who
oppose or endeavour to deceive him must be prepared to fall under his
wrath. He is honest and veracious, because he lives in solitude, and
keeps aloof from intercourse with mankind, because all agree that the
society of men crushes out all good qualities, and is productive of
misery. You may now arise, and seek an audience from his majesty,
because the opportunity will not present itself often. When you enter
and make your obeisance you must watch his humour, which will be
excellent if he has been successful in the chase. Then you will behold
him social and chatting with his courtiers, whilst the nightingale,
the heron, and other birds are singing and dancing for his amusement,
and you can then introduce the subject of your petition. But if you
behold him sitting dumb, with bloodshot eyes, or in an angry mood, say
nothing if you value your life, and in any case, if you should
perceive that silence is best, do not venture to speak."
'After this advice the partridge flew with Yuyu up to a lofty peak of
the mountain, and alighted in a beautiful garden, fragrant with the
perfume of flowers, where the eagle was sitting with his court, which
consisted of birds of every species. Then Yuyu presented himself
before his majesty, and craved an audience for the partridge, which,
having been granted, he was admitted and spoke as follows: "Praise be
to Allah, who has healed our wound and restored us to life! We lived
in trouble and distress, but the justice of your majesty's government
is the theme of every tongue; all our apprehensions have vanished, and
we hope for security under the wings of your protection, because it is
said that a noble Sultan is to his subjects like a kind father to his
children, and protects them against all evils."
'The king replied: "You are welcome in this region; here you may live
in safety among the best of neighbours, and I grant you protection."
Accordingly, the partridge returned to his spouse, whom he informed of
the condescension of his majesty, whose service both accordingly
entered, and whose favour they afterwards gained, so that they lived
happily to the end of their days.'
The 'Merzuban namah' contains also several stories about Kesra
Nausherwan the Just, and his minister Buzarjimehr, but they are not
very interesting. The extracts given above sufficiently show the
nature of this work, which puts into the mouths of animals how men and
women ought to act under various circumstances, and it bears a strong
resemblance in many ways to the 'Kalilah wa Dimnah.'
Two stories have been selected from the celebrated Arabic work
entitled 'Al--Mustatraf,' or 'The Gleaner,' or 'The Collector.' The
full title of this work is 'Al-Mustatraf min kell finn al-mustazraf,'
which may be translated thus: 'Gleanings from every kind of Elegant
(or Pleasing) Composition.' The similarity of the first and last word
of the title is attributable to the fondness of the Arabs for
alliterative or rhyming titles. As there are several meanings attached
to the word Mustatraf in the dictionaries, it might also be
interpreted as 'The Book of Pleasing Novelties.' It contains an
anthology of anecdotes, stories, proverbs, and elegant extracts by
Shaikh Muhammad Bin Ahmad Al-Bashihi. The work is mentioned by Fluegel
in his edition of Haji Khalfa's great work.
Abbas, the chief of the police of the Khalif Mamun, said: 'One day I
was present in an assembly of the Prince of the Faithful, before whom
a man was standing heavily fettered with chains of iron. As soon as
the Khalif perceived me he said: "Abbas, take good care of this man,
and produce him again to-morrow." Accordingly I called for some of my
people, and they carried him away, because he was so heavily shackled
that he could scarcely move. Considering that I had been ordered to
take every care of this prisoner, I concluded that I had better keep
him in my own house, in a chamber of which I then confined him. I
asked him what place he had come from, and on his replying that it was
Damascus, I expressed my best wishes for the prosperity of that town,
whereat he was astonished. I told him that I had been there, and asked
him about a certain man; he said that he would like to know how I
could be acquainted with him, and on my replying that I had had some
business with him, he promised to satisfy my curiosity if I gave him
first some information. Accordingly I made the following statement:
"When I was with some other officials at Damascus the population
rebelled against us, and even the governor was under the necessity of
escaping by getting himself let down in a basket from his palace. I
also fled, and whilst doing so the mob pursued me, and I ran into the
house of the above-mentioned man, who was sitting at the door of it. I
said to him: 'Help me and Allah will help you!' He received me kindly,
and told his wife to put me into a certain room, whilst he remained
sitting at the door. I had scarcely gone in when my pursuers likewise
rushed in and insisted on searching the house, which they actually
did, and would certainly have discovered me had not the man's wife
kept them off from the room in which I sat trembling for my life. When
the people at last dispersed, the man and his wife comforted me as
much as they could, and hospitably entertained me in their house for
four months, till every danger had passed away. When I was bold enough
to go out and see what had become of my slaves, I found that they had
all dispersed, and I asked my kind host to allow me to depart to
Baghdad. He consented, but when the caravan was starting he insisted
on presenting me with a horse, a slave, and all the provisions
required for the journey. All these were surprises thrust upon me when
I was about to start, and was wondering how I could possibly travel
without any of these things. Moreover, during my whole sojourn this
kind man had never asked me my name for fear that I might thereby be
compromised. After I had safely arrived in Baghdad I desired many a
time to show my gratitude to this man, but could obtain no information
about him. I still desire to requite his services, and this is the
reason why I was so anxious to learn something about him from you."
'After the man had listened to the above statement he said: "Verily,
Allah has enabled you to requite the kindness of that man." I asked:
"How can that be?" and he replied: "I am that man, but the trouble in
which you see me has hindered you from recognising me." Then he
reminded me of various circumstances, and so established his identity
that I was perfectly convinced of it, and could not restrain myself
from embracing him most fervently. To my inquiries how he had fallen
into the calamity which had overtaken him, he replied:
"A disturbance arose in Damascus similar to the rebellion which had
broken out when you were there; the Prince of the Believers sent
troops and suppressed it, but I, having been suspected as one of the
ringleaders thereof, was captured by his command, brought as a
prisoner to Baghdad, and considered to have forfeited my life, which I
shall certainly lose. I left my family without taking leave, but a
slave of mine has followed me here, and will carry back information
about me. He is to be found at such and such a place, and if you will
send for him I will give him the necessary instructions. I shall
consider it a high favour, and as a reward for all the obligations
under which you were to me."
'I told him to put his trust in Allah, and got a smith to relieve him
first of his irons, then I made him enter the bath, provided him with
good clothes, and sent for his slave, to whom he gave, with tears in
his eyes, the message for his family. I then ordered my people to get
ready several horses and mules, which I loaded with baggage and
provisions, gave the man a bag of ten thousand dirhems, with another
of five thousand dinars, and ordered my lieutenant to escort him on
his journey to Damascus as far as Anbar.' But the man replied: "The
Prince of the Believers considers that I have committed high treason,
and will send troops to pursue me; I shall be recaptured and executed,
and by allowing me to escape you will endanger your own life." I said:
"Never mind what will became of me, but save your life, and I shall
afterwards endeavour to save mine." He rejoined: "That shall not be,
and I cannot leave Baghdad without knowing what has become of you."
Seeing him determined in his purpose, I ordered my lieutenant to take
him to a certain place in the town where he could remain in
concealment till the next day, when he might be informed as to whether
I had extricated myself from the difficulty, or had lost my life, in
which latter case I should only have repaid him for having risked his
in Damascus to save mine, and after that he could depart.
'The lieutenant had taken the man away, and I made preparations for my
death, getting ready my winding-sheet in which my corpse was to be
shrouded, when an official on the part of Mamun arrived with this
message: "The Prince of the Faithful orders you to bring the man with
you." Accordingly I hastened to the palace, where I found the Khalif
sitting and expecting me. The first words he said to me were these: "I
want to see the man!" I remained silent, and on his uttering them more
emphatically, replied: "Will you please listen to me, O Commander of
the Believers?" He continued: "I am determined to strike your head off
if the man has fled." I said: "O Prince of the Faithful, the man has
not escaped, but listen to what I have to say about him, and then you
may act as you deem fit." He continued: "Speak!" Accordingly I
narrated everything, and said that I was anxious to requite the man in
some measure for all the good he had done to me, that I was desirous
to save his life even at the cost of my own, if need be, and finished
my explanation by showing the winding-sheet I had brought with me.
After the Khalif had patiently listened, he exclaimed: "His merit is
superior to yours, because he has treated you nobly without knowing
you; whereas you only do so after having enjoyed his beneficence. I
desire to reward him myself." "The man is here, and would not leave
until apprized of my fate; I can produce him at once." The Khalif
said: "This trait of his character is yet more noble; go, comfort the
man, and bring him here." Accordingly I departed, and when I
introduced the man to the Khalif, he received him kindly, offered him
a seat, conversed with him till dinner was brought in, of which he
made him partake in his own company. Lastly, the Khalif invested him
with a robe of honour, and wished to appoint him Governor of Damascus,
but this he humbly refused. Accordingly, Mamun presented him with ten
horses saddled and bridled, ten mules caparisoned, and ten bags, each
of which contained ten thousand dinars; he also gave him ten slaves,
with animals to ride upon, and a letter to the Governor of Damascus to
absolve him from the payment of taxes. This man afterwards
corresponded with Mamun, and when a courier arrived from Damascus the
Khalif used to say to me, "Abbas! a letter from your friend has
One night Harun-ar-Rashid was quite sleepless, and said to his vizier,
Jaafar, the son of Yahya, the Barmekide: 'I cannot sleep this night; I
feel oppressed, and do not know what to do.' The servant Masrur, who
happened to be standing near, burst out laughing at these words, and
the Khalif continued: 'What are you laughing for? Do you mock me or
wish to show your levity?' Masrur said: 'I swear by your relationship
to the Prince of Apostles that I have done this unwittingly; but last
evening I was near the castle, and walked to the bank of the Tigris,
where I saw many persons assembled around a man who made them laugh,
and just now I recollected some of his words, which caused me to
smile; his name is Ben Almugazeli, and I crave pardon from the
Commander of the Faithful.' Then Rashid said: 'Bring him here this
moment.' Accordingly Masrur went to Ben Almugazeli and said to him:
'The Commander of the Faithful wants you.' He replied: 'To hear is to
obey!' And Masrur continued: 'But on the condition that if he presents
you with anything, one-fourth of it will belong to you, and the rest
to me.' The man rejoined: 'No, I must have one-third of it and you the
other two-thirds.' Masrur would not agree to this proposal, but at
last consented after a great deal of haggling. When he was admitted
and had made his salutations, the Khalif said: 'If you make me laugh I
shall give you five hundred dinars, but if not I shall give you three
blows with this sock.' Now Ben Almugazeli said to himself: "What is
the odds if I get three strokes with the sock?" because he thought it
was empty. Accordingly he began to jest and to play tricks at which
low people might have laughed, but not Rashid, who did not even smile.
The man was first astonished, then grieved, and at last frightened
when Rashid said: "Now you have deserved the blows." He then took up
the sock and twisted it, but at the bottom there were some balls, each
of which weighed two drachms. When he had struck Ben Almugazeli once,
the latter yelled pitifully, but recollecting the condition Masrur had
imposed upon him, he exclaimed: "Mercy, O Commander of the Faithful,
listen to two words of mine." He said: "Speak what you like." The man
continued: "I have promised Masrur to let him have two-thirds of the
bounty I might receive, and to keep one-third for myself, and to this
he agreed only after much bargaining. Now the Commander of the
Faithful has decided that the bounty shall consist of three blows, of
which my share would be one, and Masrur's two. I have received mine,
and now is his turn to take his." Rashid laughed, called for Masrur,
and struck him; Masrur groaned from pain, and said: "I present him
with the remainder." The Khalif laughed and ordered them to be
presented with one thousand dinars, of which each received five
hundred, and Ben Almugazeli went away grateful.'
In this work there are several other stories concerning various
Khalifs, the Barmekide family, and other people, but the extracts
given above are sufficient to show the nature of the volume.
Two short anecdotes are taken from the 'Sihr-ul-oyoon,' or 'Magic of
the eyes,' a work known to Haji Khalfa, and noted by Fluegel in his
lexicon. This book contains seven chapters, with some drawings of the
eye, and an appendix consisting entirely of poetry, which, however, is
also interspersed throughout the work, excepting in the chapters
treating on the anatomy, the infirmities of, and the remedies for the
Moghairah bin Shabah states that he never was so cunningly deceived as
by a youth of the Benou-ul-Hareth. He intended to sue for the hand of
a girl of that tribe, when this youth, who stood near him, said: 'O
Amir, you have no need of her.' 'Why?' 'I saw a man kiss her.'
Accordingly Moghairah went away, but heard some time afterwards that
the said youth had married the girl himself. On meeting again
Moghairah said to the youth: 'Did you not tell me that you had seen a
man kiss her.' 'Certainly I did,' the young man replied, 'but that man
was her father.'
A man happened to find on the road a silver brooch, which women use
for applying collyrium to their eyes. This pin was handsome, and he
concluded that the girl who had lost it must have very beautiful eyes.
He indulged so much in this fancy that he conceived an affection for
the owner of the brooch, and was fond of showing the precious article
to his acquaintances. One day a friend paid him a visit, and after the
wine they had drunk had taken effect, he took out the said brooch
according to his wont, kissed it, and wept over it. The friend, who
knew the brooch, asked whence he had obtained it, but he replied:
'Pray do not question me, I am in love with the proprietress of it; my
heart is melting, and it is so dear to me that I get jealous when
other eyes beside my own look at it.' The friend said: 'I shall bring
about a meeting between you and your mistress.' The other asked, 'Who
could procure me that felicity?' The friend went away, but returned in
a short time bearing a covered platter, which he placed before him,
saying, 'Uncover this basin,' and lo! it contained a female head,
weltering in its own gore, and on beholding it the man nearly fainted
with grief. His friend, however, said: 'Be not dismayed, but tell me
how you obtained this brooch, which I had presented to my wife, whose
head is before you.' He replied that he had found the brooch on a
certain day on the road, and described the spot, adding that he
imagined the owner of it must be beautiful, and conceived a warm
affection for her, but that he had never seen her face, and knew not
who she might have been. The friend said: 'This is true enough,
because she told me one day that she had lost it; hence no blame rests
on you.' The two men parted; the would-be lover, however, took this
melancholy event so much to heart that he not only repented of his
folly, but died of grief.
The following curious philosophic discourse is taken from the
'Siraj-ul-Muluk,' or Lamp of Kings, a well-known work composed about
A.D. 1126, and typographed at Cairo A.D. 1872:
'Allah, the Most High, has said (Koran, vi., verse 38): "There is no
kind of beast on earth, nor fowl which flieth with its wing, but the
same is a people like unto you." Allah the Most High has accordingly
established a resemblance between us and all the animals. It is well
known that they are not like us in their figures and forms as
perceived by the eye, but in their demeanour; and there is not a human
being who does not possess some qualities peculiar to animals. When
you perceive that a man's character is unusual, you must endeavour to
find out the qualities of the animal with which it may be compared,
and judge of him according to these; and to avoid all
misunderstanding, and to maintain intercourse with him, you must
behave towards him in conformity with them.
'Accordingly, when you see an ignorant man of rude behaviour, strong
in body, whose anger overpowers him at any moment, you are to compare
him to a tiger, and there is an Arab proverb: "He is more stupid than
a tiger." When you see a tiger, you avoid him, and do not fight with
him, therefore towards an individual of this kind you must behave in
the same manner.
'When you observe a man wantonly attacking the reputation of others,
compare him to a dog, because it is his nature. When a dog barks at
you it does not trouble you much, and you go your own way. You must
deal in this manner with such men, because they are like dogs who
assault others without any provocation.
'When you perceive that a man's nature is to say "Yes" when you say
"No," and "No" if you say "Yes," compare him to an ass, because when
you approach him he recedes, and when you move away he will move
towards you. You must put up with your donkey, and neither separate
from him nor insult him. Deal in the same way with such a person.
'When you perceive a man searching out the weaknesses or shortcomings
of people, compare him to a fly, which settles on a carcase, and then
gluts itself with the vilest parts of it, such as the rotten flesh and
the filthy offal.
'When you observe a Sultan taking the lives, and confiscating the
property of his subjects, consider him to be a lion, and be on your
guard that he does not injure you.
'When you see a wicked man full of tricks and boastings, compare him
to a fox.
'If you happen to meet with a tale-bearer who foments enmity among
friends, consider him to be a "Zeriban," which is a small beast of
fetid smell, so that when two persons fall out with each other, the
Arabs say that "a Zeriban has passed between them." It is, indeed, the
peculiarity of this animal that an assembly disperses when it enters,
accordingly it is driven off as soon as perceived, and a tale-bearer
ought to be dealt with similarly.
'When you observe that a man loathes to listen to intelligent
conversation, and hates meetings of learned men, but is fond of
gossip, all kinds of nonsense, and scandals of society, compare him to
the May-bug, which delights in impure exhalations, and loves
dunghills, but hates the perfumes of musk or of roses, which actually
kill it when sprinkled upon it.
'If you meet an individual displaying a great deal of piety outwardly,
but always intriguing to acquire property, to enrich himself by
unrighteous means, and to cheat widows and orphans, consider him to be
"The wolf is so devout;
You see him on his knees,
He nicely prays and sighs.
But when his game is near,
He falls upon it speedily
And tears it all to pieces."
'When you discover a liar consider him to be like a dead man, who can
give no information, and with whom no one can associate. A liar may
also be compared to an ostrich which buries all its eggs in the sand,
but leaves one upon the surface, and one close under it, whilst all
the others are deeply concealed. When an inexperienced man perceives
that egg he takes it, and perhaps also the one close below it, and
after scraping up the sand a little, and finding nothing more goes
away; whilst a person who knows this habit of the ostrich does not
stop searching until he has got possession of all the eggs. You must
deal in the same manner with a liar, and not believe him till you get
to the bottom of his story, i.e. until you elicit the actual truth.
'When you observe that a man's whole attention is absorbed in
endeavours to make a good appearance by keeping his clothes nice, and
apprehensive lest they should be dirtied in any way, always picking
any little straws that might adhere to them, and constantly adjusting
his turban, consider him to be a peacock, whose nature is always to
admire his own person, to stalk about majestically, to display the
plumage of his tail, and to solicit praise of his beauty.
'If you become acquainted with a rancorous person who never forgets
the slightest insult, but avenges himself for it even after a
considerable lapse of time, compare him to a camel, for the Arabs
truly say of such a man that "he is more rancorous than a camel."
Avoid such a man as you would an ill-natured camel.
'When you meet a hypocrite, who is different from what he appears to
be, compare him to the Yarbu, _i.e._ the mouse of the desert, which
has two apertures to its lair, the one for an entrance, and the other
for an exit, so that it always cheats the hunter who digs for it.'
Yet another story-book may be quoted, viz., the 'Ilam en Nas,' or
Warnings for Men, containing historical tales and anecdotes of the
time of the early Khalifates. Some of these were translated by Mrs.
Godfrey Clerk in 1873 (King and Co.), and her little volume also
contains a very good genealogical table of the families of the
Prophet, and of the Rashidin (or 'rightly directed,' _i.e._ Abu Bakr,
Omar, Othman, and Ali), the Omaiyide, and the Abbaside Khalifs.
Among the many works of Arabic literature one of the most interesting
and the most amusing is Ibn Khallikan's celebrated Biographical
Dictionary. The author must have been a very intelligent and a very
industrious man, for his volumes contain an enormous amount of
information about many hundred Arabs. This work is rendered all the
more readable and all the more amusing by the many anecdotes related
in connection with their lives, and a few of these stories are now
Ibn Abbas, son of Abbas, uncle of Muhammad, was one of the ablest
interpreters of the Koran. It was owing to his efforts that the study
of the poems, composed before the introduction of Islamism, became of
such importance to the Muslims, for he frequently quoted verses of the
ancient poets in proof of the explanation he gave of different
passages of the Koran, and he used to say: 'When you meet with a
difficulty in the Koran look for its solution in the poems of the
Arabs, for these are the registers of the Arabic nation.' On being
asked how he had acquired his extensive knowledge, he replied: 'By
means of an inquiring tongue and an intelligent heart.'
It may here perhaps be stated that the Koran, composed avowedly in the
purest Arabic, offered many difficulties to those who were not
acquainted with the idiom of the desert Arabs, a race who alone spoke
the language in its perfection. The study of the ancient poets was
therefore considered as necessary for the intelligence of the Koran,
and their poems, often obscure from the intricacy of their
construction and their obsolete terms, required the assistance of
grammatical analysis and philology to render them comprehensible.
Ibn Faris Ar-Razi, the Philologist, is the author of these verses:
'Well, some things succeed and some fail: when my heart is filled with
cares I say: "One day perhaps they may be dispelled." A cat is my
companion; books the friends of my heart; and a lamp my beloved
Badi Az-Zaman al-Hamadani, the author of some beautiful epistles and
excellent essays, which last Hariri took as a model in the composition
of his, wrote as follows about death: 'Death is awful till it comes,
and then it is found light; its touch seems grating till felt, and
then it is smooth; the world is so hostile and its injustice so great
that death is the lightest of its inflictions, the least of its
wrongs. Look, then, to the right; do you see aught but affliction?
Look to the left; do you see aught but woe?'
Abu Wathila Iyas Al-Kadi was renowned for his excessive acuteness of
mind, observation, and penetration. Many stories are told about him in
connection with these qualities, which are really astonishing. It is
related of him that he said: 'I was never worsted in penetration but
by one man: I had taken my seat in the court of judgment at Busra,
when a person came before me and gave testimony that a certain garden,
of which he mentioned the boundaries, belonged to a man whom he named.
As I had some doubts of his veracity, I asked him how many trees were
in that garden, and he said to me, after a short silence: "How long is
it since our lord the Kadi has been giving judgment in this hall?" I
told him the time. "How many beams," said he, "are there in the roof?"
On which I acknowledged that he was in the right, and I received his
It is a curious circumstance that Homer the Greek poet, Radaki the
Persian poet, and Bashshar bin Burd the Arabian poet, were all blind.
Here is a specimen of one of the verses of the last-named:
'Yes, my friends! my ear is charmed by a person in that tribe; for the
ear is sometimes enamoured sooner than the eye. You say that I am led
by one whom I never saw; know that the ear as well as the eye can
inform the mind of facts.'
He composed also the following verse, which is the most gallant of any
made by the poets of that epoch:
'Yes, by Allah! I love the magic of your eyes, and yet I dread the
weapons by which so many lovers fell.'
Several sayings of Al-Hasan bin Sahl, the vizier to the Khalif
Al-Mamun, have been preserved. Once he himself wrote at the end of a
letter of recommendation, dictated to his secretary: 'I have been told
that on the day of judgment a man will be questioned respecting the
use he made of the influence given him by his rank in the world, in
the same manner as he will be questioned respecting the use he made of
the superfluity of his wealth.'
Again he said to his sons: 'My sons, learn the use of language; it is
by it that man holds his preeminence over other animals; the higher
the skill which you attain in the use of language, the nearer you
approach to the ideal of human nature.'
It is related of Sari-as Sakati, the celebrated Sufi, that he said
that for twenty years he never ceased imploring Divine pardon for
having once exclaimed, 'Praise be to God!' and on being asked the
reason he said: 'A fire broke out in Baghdad, and a person came up to
me and told me that my shop had escaped, on which I uttered these
words; and even to this moment I repent of having said so, because it
showed that I wished better to myself than to others.'
Al-Ahnaf bin Kais, whose prudence was proverbial among the Arabs, used
to say: 'I have followed three rules of conduct, which I now mention
merely that the man of reflection may profit by my example--I never
interfered between two parties unless invited by them to do so; I
never went to the door of these people (meaning princes) unless sent
for by them; and I never rose from my place to obtain a thing when all
men were anxious to possess it.'
Abu Yazid Taifur al-Bastaimi, the famous ascetic, being asked how he
had acquired his knowledge of the spiritual world, answered that it
was by means of a hungry belly and naked body. He used to say: 'When
you see a man possessing miraculous powers, so as even to mount into
the air, let not that deceive you, but see if he observes God's
commands and prohibitions, if he keeps within the bounds imposed by
religion, and if he performs the duties which it prescribes.'
Abul Aswad ad-Duwali, the inventor of grammar, in intelligence one of
the most perfect of men, and in reason one of the most sagacious, was
notorious for his avarice, and he used to say: 'If we listened to the
demands made by the poor for our money, we should soon be worse off
than they.' He said also to his sons: 'Strive not to rival Almighty
God in generosity, for He is the most bountiful and the most glorious;
had He pleased He would have given ample wealth to all men, so strive
not to be generous lest you die of starvation.' It is also related
that Abul Aswad had an attack of the palsy, and that he used to go to
the market himself, though scarcely able to draw his legs after him,
and yet he was rich, and possessed both male and female slaves. A
person who knew this accosted him one day, and said: 'God has
dispensed you from the necessity of moving about on your own business,
why do you not remain seated at home?' To which he replied: 'No; I go
in and out, and the eunuch says "He is coming," and the boy says "He
is coming," whereas, were I to continue sitting in the house, the
sheep would urine upon me without any person's preventing them.'
It is related that on a dispute between the Sunnites and Shiites of
Baghdad about the relative merits of Abu Bakr and Ali, both parties
agreed to abide by the opinion of the Shaikh Abul Faraj bin Al-Jauzi.
They consequently deputed a person, who questioned him on the subject
when he was seated in the preacher's chair. The one reply which he
made bears in Arabic two different meanings--the first, that the best
of them was he whose daughter was married to the other man; and the
second, that the best of them was he who had married the daughter of
the other man. He then withdrew promptly, lest he should be questioned
further, and the Sunnites said: 'He means Abu Bakr, because his
daughter Ayesha was married to the Prophet,' 'Nay,' said the Shiites,
'he means Ali, because Fatima, the Prophet's daughter, was married to
him.' The answer was certainly very clever; had it even been the
result of long reflection and deep consideration, it would have been
admirable, but coming as it did without any previous preparation, it
was still more so.
Shibab Ad-Din (flambeau of the faith) as-Suhrawardi was a pious and
holy Shaikh, most assiduous in his spiritual exercises, and the
practice of devotion, and successfully guided a great number of Sufis
in their efforts to obtain perfection. Many persons wrote to him for
his opinion on circumstances which concerned themselves, and one wrote
as follows: 'My lord,--If I cease to work I shall remain in idleness,
and if I work I am filled with self-satisfaction; which is best?' To
this the Shaikh replied: 'Work, and ask Almighty God to pardon thy
self-satisfaction.' The following is one of his verses:
'If I contemplate you, I am all eyes; and if I think of you I am all
Abu Ali Al-Jubbai was an able master in the science of dogmatic
theology, and had at one time a pupil named Abul Hasan Al-Ashari. It
is related that one day the two had the following discussion.
Al-Ashari propounded to his master the case of three brothers, one of
whom was a true believer, virtuous and pious; the second an infidel, a
debauchee, and a reprobate; and the third an infant; they all died,
and Al-Ashari wished to know what had become of them. To this
Al-Jubbai answered: 'The virtuous brother holds a high position in
Paradise, the infidel is in the depths of hell, and the child is among
those who have obtained salvation.' 'Suppose now,' said Al-Ashari,
'that the child should wish to ascend to the place occupied by his
virtuous brother, would he be allowed to do so?' 'No,' replied
Al-Jubbai, 'it would be said to him: "Thy brother arrived at this place
through his numerous works of obedience towards God, and thou hast no
such works to set forward."' 'Suppose, then,' said Al-Ashari, 'that
the child say, "That is not my fault; you did not let me live long
enough, neither did you give me the means of proving my obedience."'
'In that case,' answered Al-Jubbai, 'the Almighty would say: "I knew
that if I allowed thee to live thou wouldst have been disobedient, and
incurred the severe punishment of hell; I therefore acted for thy
advantage."' 'Well,' said Al-Ashari, 'and suppose the infidel brother
were here to say: "O God of the Universe! since you knew what awaited
him, you must have known what awaited me; why, then, did you act for
his advantage and not for mine?"' Al-Jubbai had not a word to offer in
reply. This discussion proves that the Almighty elects some for mercy,
and others for punishment, and that his acts are not the results of
any motive whatsoever.
It is related that As-Shafi said: 'There are five men on whom people
must rely for the nourishment of their minds: he who wishes to become
learned in jurisprudence must have recourse to Abu Hanifah; he who
desires to become skilled in poetry must apply to Zoheir bin Ali
Sulma, the author of one of the Mua'llakas, or suspended poems at
Mecca; he who would like to become well acquainted with the history of
the Muslim conquests must obtain his information from Muhammad bin
Ishak; he who wishes to become deeply learned in grammar must have
recourse to Al-Kisai; and he who seeks to be acquainted with the
interpretations of the Koran must apply to Mukatil bin Sulaiman.'
There are several stories current as to how the Khalif Omar bin
Al-Khattab took upon himself the title of 'Commander of the Faithful.'
One is that Omar was one day holding a public sitting, when he said:
'By Allah! I do not know what we must say. Abu Bakr was the successor
of the Apostle of God, and I am the successor of the successor of
God's Apostle. Is there any title that can answer?' Those who were
present said: 'Commander (Amir) will do.' 'Nay,' said Omar, 'you are
all commanders.' On this Al-Mughira said: 'We are the faithful, and
you are our Commander.' 'Then,' said Omar, 'I am the Commander of the
Abu Ali Yahya, the vizier of Harun-ar-Rashid, was the son of Khalid,
and the grandson of Barmek. Yahya was highly distinguished for wisdom,
nobleness of mind, and elegance of language. One of his sayings was:
'Three things indicate the degree of intelligence possessed by him who
does them: the bestowing of gifts, the drawing up of letters, and the
acting as ambassador.' He used to say to his sons: 'Write down the
best things which you hear; learn by heart the best things which you
write down; and in speaking utter the best things which you have
learned by heart.'
Ibn As-Sikkit, the philologist, related that Muhammad bin As-Summak
used to say: 'He who knows mankind humours them; he who has not that
knowledge thwarts them; and the main point in humouring mankind is to
abstain from thwarting them.' The neglect of carrying out this maxim
cost As-Sikkit his life. One day, whilst he was with the Khalif
Al-Mutwakkil, that prince's two sons, Al-Motazz and Al-Muwaiyad, came
in, and the Khalif said to him: 'Tell me, Yakub, which you like
best--these two sons of mine, or Al-Hasan and Al-Hussain, the sons of
Ali.' Ibn As-Sikkit answered by depreciating the merits of the two
princes, and giving to Al-Hasan and Al-Hussain the praise to which they
were well entitled. On this Al-Mutwakkil ordered his Turkish guards to
chastise him, and they threw him down and trod on his belly. He was
then carried to his house, where he died two days afterwards, A.D.
Three men met together; one of them expressed a wish to obtain a
thousand pieces of gold, so that he might trade with them; the other
wished for an appointment under the Emir of the Muslims; the third
wished to possess the Emir's wife, who was the handsomest of women,
and had great political influence. Yusuf bin Tashifin, the Emir of the
Muslims, being informed of what they said, sent for the men, bestowed
one thousand dinars on him who wished for that sum, gave an
appointment to the other, and said to him who wished to possess the
lady: 'Foolish man! what induced you to wish for that which you can
never obtain?' He then sent him to her, and she placed him in a tent,
where he remained three days, receiving each day, one and the same
kind of food. She had him then brought to her, and said: 'What did you
eat these days past?' He replied: 'Always the same thing.' 'Well,'
said she, 'all women are the same thing!' She then ordered some money
and a dress to be given him, after which she dismissed him.
The following anecdotes have been gathered from various sources.
A certain shepherd had a dog of which he was very fond, and which
having, to his great grief, died, was buried by him with every mark of
affection and regret. The Kadi of the village, whose ill-will the
shepherd had in some way incurred, hearing of this, ordered him to be
brought before him on the serious charge of profanity in having mocked
the ceremonies of the Muhammadan religion, and buried an unclean
animal with sacred rites. On being asked what he had to say in his
defence, the prisoner thus addressed the magistrate: 'If your
reverence will be pleased to hear my story, you will, I am sure,
excuse me. My dog's mother died when he was quite a puppy, and he was
brought up by a she-goat of my flock, who adopted him. When she died
in her turn she left him all her property, consisting of several fine
young kids. Now when my dog was taken ill, and found himself at the
point of death, I asked him what I should do with the kids which
belonged to him, and he replied: "Give them to his reverence the
Kadi." I thought the animal so sensible for this that I gave him
Muslim burial.' 'Quite right,' said his reverence. 'What else was the
lamented deceased pleased to observe?'
A knowledge of the language of birds and beasts is regarded as the
greatest divine gift, and was expressly vouchsafed, according to the
Koranic legend, to Solomon, the son of David. It is related that one
day Solomon was returning to his palace when he saw a cock and hen
sparrow sitting near the gateway, and overheard the former telling the
latter that he was the person who had designed, and planned, and built
all the surroundings. On hearing this Solomon remarked to the male
bird that he must know he was telling a fearful lie, and that nobody
would believe him. 'That is true,' replied the sparrow, 'nobody
probably will believe my story except my wife; she believes implicitly
everything that I say.'
One day a king was sailing in a boat with a negro slave, who was so
seasick that his groans and lamentations disturbed the royal repose. A
doctor who happened to be present undertook to keep the slave quiet,
and, on receiving permission to do so, ordered him to be thrown
overboard, which was promptly done. The poor wretch managed with
difficulty to catch hold of the rudder of the boat, and, being taken
on board once more, sat shivering in a corner, and did not utter
another sound. The king, delighted with this result, asked the doctor
how he had silenced the fellow. 'Your Majesty will see,' was the
reply, 'he had never before experienced the inconvenience of being
drowned, and did not properly appreciate the security of a boat.'
One day the Khalif Harun-ar-Rashid and his jester, the poet Abu Nuwas,
were disputing as to the truth of an axiom laid down by Abu Nuwas,
that 'an excuse was often worse than the crime,' and the poet offered
to convince the monarch of it before the night was over. The Khalif,
with a grim humour peculiarly his own, promised to take off his
jester's head if he failed to do so, and went out in a rage. After
awhile Harun came in a somewhat surly temper to his harem, and the
first thing which greeted him was a kiss from a rough-bearded face. On
calling out violently for a light and an executioner, he found that
his assailant was Abu Nuwas himself. 'What on earth, you scoundrel, do
you mean by this conduct?' asked the enraged Sovereign. 'I beg your
Majesty's most humble pardon,' said Abu Nuwas, 'I thought it was your
Majesty's favourite wife.' 'What!' shrieked Harun, 'why the excuse is
worse than the crime.' 'Just what I promised to prove to your
Majesty,' replied Abu Nuwas, and retired closely followed by one of
the imperial slippers.
An Arab whose camel had strayed swore an oath that he would, on
finding it, sell it for one dirhem. When he had again obtained
possession of the animal he repented of his oath, but tied a cat to
the neck of the camel and shouted: 'Who will buy a camel for one
dirhem, and a cat for a hundred dirhems? But I will not sell them
separately.' A man who was there said: 'How cheap would this camel be
if it had no collar on the neck!' Something of the same kind happened
in France the other day. A peasant died, leaving his property to be
sold by his wife. Among other things there was a dog and a horse,
which the woman put up for sale together, saying that the dog's price
was twenty pounds, and the horse's one pound, but that they must be
sold together. It turned out that the deceased husband had left the
dog to his wife, and the horse to another relation, the monies
realized by the sale of each to be paid to the respective parties.
An Arab of the desert said to his boy: 'O son! on the day of
resurrection thou wilt be asked what merit thou hast gained, and not
from whom thou art descended; that is to say, thou wilt be asked what
thy merit is, and not who thy father was.'
A learned man relates the following: 'I stood with a friend on a road
conversing with him when a woman halted opposite to me, looking at me
steadfastly. When this staring had passed all bounds, I despatched my
slave to ask the woman what she was listening to. He came back and
reported that the woman had said: "My eyes had committed a great sin.
I intended to inflict a punishment upon them, and could devise none
worse than looking at that hideous face."'
There are some good verses in the Arabic descriptive of the places
where certain Arabs wished to be buried. It was Abu Mihjan, the
Thackifite, who chose the vineyard.
'Bury me, when I die, by the roots of the vine,
The moisture thereof will distil into my bones;
Bury me not in the open plain, for then I much fear
That no more again shall I taste the flavour of the grape.'
'When the Death angel cometh mine eyes to close,
Dig my grave 'mid the vines on the hill's fair side;
For though deep in earth may my bones repose,
The juice of the grape shall their food provide.
Oh, bury me not in a barren land,
Or Death will appear to me dread and drear!
While fearless I'll wait what he hath in hand
If the scent of the vineyard my spirit cheer.'
On the other hand, some of the wild people prefer the hill slopes, and
an example is given in the address of the dying Bedouin to his tribe:
'O bear with you my bones where the camel bears his load,
And bury me before you, if buried I must be;
And let me not be buried 'neath the burden of the vine,
But high upon the hill whence your sight I ever see!
As you pass along my grave cry aloud, and name your names,
The crying of your names shall revive the bones of me,
I have fasted through my life with my friends, and in my
I will feast when we meet on that day of joy and glee.'
The French poet, Alfred de Musset's, gentle verses in his elegy to
Lucie, and which have been engraved on his tomb in Paris, at
Pere-Lachaise, run as follows:
'When I shall die, dear friends, aslant
My silent grave a willow plant;
I love its foliage weeping near,
To me its colour's sweet and dear;
Its shadow gray will lightly fall
Upon my tomb--a mourning pall,
And will likewise do the keeping
Of the ground where I am sleeping.'
LIST OF TRANSLATIONS
_Published under the patronage of the Old Oriental Translation Fund_.
=From the Persian=.
1. Memoirs of the Emperor Jehanghir.
2. History of the Afghans.
3. The Adventures of Hatim Tai.
4. The Life of Sheikh Muhammad Ali Hazin.
5. Autobiographical Memoirs of the Moghul Emperor Timur.
6. The Life of Hafiz ul Mulk Hafiz Rehmut Khan.
7. The Geographical Works of Sadik Isfahani.
8. Firdusi's Shah Nameh.
9. Private Memoirs of the Moghul Emperor Humayun.
10. History of the Mahomedan Power in India during the Last Century.
11. Customs and Manners of the Women of Persia.
12. Mirkhond's History of the Early Kings of Persia.
13. The Political and Statistical History of Guzerat.
14. Chronique d'Abou Djafar Muhammad Tabari.
15. Laili and Majnun.
16. Practical Philosophy of the Mahomedan People.
17. Specimens of the Popular Poetry of Persia.
18. History of Hyder Naik, otherwise called Nuwab Hyder Ali.
19. The Dabistan, or School of Manners.
20. History of the Reign of Tipu Sultan.
21. Historical Memoirs of Early Conquerors of Hindustan,
and Founders of the Ghaznavide Dynasty.
=From the Arabic=.
1. The Travels of Ibn Batuta.
2. Travels of Marcarius, Patriarch of Antioch.
3. The Algebra of Muhammad Ben Musa.
4. History of the First Settlement of the Mahomedans in
5. Alfiyya, ou la Quintessence de la Grammaire Arabe.
6. Haji Khalfae Lexicon Encyclopaedicum et Bibliographicum.
7. The History of the Temple of Jerusalem.
8. Histoire des Sultans Mamelouks de l'Egypte.
9. The History of the Mahomedan Dynasties in Spain.
10. El-Mas'udi's Historical Encyclopaedia, entitled 'Meadows
of Gold and Mines of Gems.'
11. Ibn Khallikan's Biographical Dictionary.
12. Makamat, or Rhetorical Anecdotes of Abul Kasem al
Hariri of Basra.
13. The Chronology of Ancient Nations, by Albiruni.
=From the Sanscrit=.
1. Kalidasae Raghuvansa Carmen.
2. Harivansa, ou Histoire de Famille de Hari.
3. The Sankhya Karika, or Memorial Verses on the Sankhya
4. Rig Yeda Sanhita.
5. Kumara Sambhava.
6. The Vishnu Purana, a System of Hindu Mythology and
7. Sama Veda.
8. Kalidasa, the Birth of the War God.
=From the Chinese=.
1. Han Koong Tsew, or the Sorrows of Hen--a Tragedy.
2. The Fortunate Union--A Romance.
3. Hoe Lan Ki--A Drama.
4. Le Livre des Recompenses et des Peines.
5. Memoires sur les Contrees occidentales.
=From The Japonais-Chinois=.
1. San Kokf Tsou Ban To Sets; ou, Apercu general des
2. Annales des Empereurs du Japon.
=From the Turkish=.
1. History of the War in Bosnia during 1837-38-39.
2. History of the Maritime Wars of the Turks.
3. Annals of the Turkish Empire, A.D. 1591 to 1659.
4. Narratives of Travels in Europe, Asia, and Africa.
=From the Armenian=.
1. The History of Vartan, and of the Battle of the
2. Chronique de Matthieu d'Edesse.
=From The Cingalese=.
1. Yakkun Nattannawa and Kolan Nattannawa, two
=From the Coptic=.
1. The Apostolic Constitutions, or Canons of the Apostles.
=From the Ethiopic=.
1. The Didascalia, or Apostolical Constitutions of the
=From the Hebrew=.
1. The Chronicles of Rabbi Joseph Ben Joshua Ben Meir.
=From the Hindustani=.
1. Les Aventures de Kamrup.
=From the Malay=.
1. Memoirs of a Malayan Family.
=From the Maghadi=.
1. The Kalpa Sutra and Nava Tatva. Two works illustrative
of the Jain Religion and Philosophy.
=From the Syriac=.
1. Spicilegium Syriacum; containing remains of Bardesan,
Meliton, Ambrose, and Mara Bar Serapion.
1. Miscellaneous Translations, two volumes, 1831-34.
2. Translations from the Chinese and Armenian.
3. A Description of the Burmese Empire.
4. Essay on the Architecture of the Hindus.
5. Histoire de la Litterature Hindoui et Hindustani.
6. Biographical Notices of Persian Poets.
7. The Poems of the Huzailis, edited in Arabic.
Aasha (Al), the poet, 30, 77, 82
Abbas, uncle of Muhammad, 3,7
Abbasides, the, 7, 12
Abbaside Khalifs, the most celebrated, 12,96
Abbaside Khalifs, list of, 19
Abd-al-Hamid, the secretary, 95
Abd-Allah bin Hilal, the translator, 90
Abd-Allah bin Rewaha, the poet, 34
Abd-Allah bin Zobeir, the politician, 34
Abd-ar-Rahman I. of Spain, 8
Abd-ar-Rahman II. of Spain, 9
Abd-ar-Rahman III. of Spain, 9, 11, 102
Abdul-Muttalib, grandfather of Muhammad, 120, 121
Abdul Wahab, the reformer, 16
Abode of Wisdom, 106
Abraham, the father of three religions, 144
Abu Awana, the traditionist, 38
Abu Bakr, the Khalifah, 4, 18, 123, 137, 147
Abu Bakr as Sauli, the editor of poems, 77, 83, 84, 101
Abu Hatim es Sejastani, the philologist, editor of poems and author, 76
Abu Nuwas, the poet, 77, 79-82
Abu Obaida, the general, 4
Abu Obaida, the philologist, 60, 61
Abu Othman, the philologist, 62, 76
Abu Sa'ud, the mufti, 112
Abu Sofyan, the politician and Companion, 34, 137
Abu Sulaiman Dawud ez Zahari, the imam, 38
Abu Tammam, the poet, 76,77
Abu Thaleb, uncle of Muhammad, 121, 125
Abu Zaid, the traditionist, 38
Abu Zaid bin Aus, the editor of poems, 76
Abul Abbas as Saffah, 7, 19
Abul Aina, the philologist, 63
Abul Ala-al-Maari, the philologist and poet, 84
Abul Atahya, the poet, 77, 78
Abul Faraj, the historian, 97
Abul Faraj al Ispahani, 77, 83, 84, 87
Abul Feda, the historian, 97, 108, 109
Abul Khair, or Ahmed bin Mustafa, 55, 113, 115
Abul Mashar (Albumasar), the astronomer, 24, 42
Ahmed-bin-ud Dmveri, the author, 58
Akhfash (Al), the grammarian, 49
Akhtal (Al), the poet, 77, 78, 82
(Khalid bin Yazid, Jaafar as
Sadik, Jaber bin Hayam, each
Ali bin Abu Thaleb, the Khalifah, 5, 6, 19, 123, 127
Ali bin Ridhwan, the philosopher, 65, 69, 70
Ali bin Yunis, the astronomer, 43
Amina, mother of Muhammad, 121
Amr bin Al-Aasi, the general, 4, 129, 147
Amra-al-Kais (Amriolkais), the poet, 28, 79, 80
Amru, the poet, 29
Analysis of twelve stories from the 'Arabian Nights,' 157-174
Anbari (Al), the grammarian, 49
Anecdotes, eighteen from Ibn Khalhkan's Biographical Dictionary, 217-228
Anecdotes from various sources, 228
Animal fables and stories, 153, 156
Ansari (Al), the philologist, 62
'Antar,' a Bedouin romance, 184, 185
Antara, the poet, 28
Arab verses about burial places, 233
Arabia, description of, 1, 2;
history of, 2;
detached from the Abbasides, 15;
Turkish dealings with, 16;
Wahhabi movement in 16;
Egyptian dealings with, 17;
Wahhabism in 17;
present government of, 17;
future prospects of 18
Arabian learning, 10, 24
'Arabian Nights,' The. Date of their commencement 152, 153;
the oldest part of the work, 153;
the oldest tales and stories, 154;
the remaining ones, 154;
the sources from which they sprang, 152, 180;
many authors composed the work, 153-180;
compared with the 'Katha Sarit Sagara', 181;
remarks on the 'Nights' and 'Antar,' 186;
Galland's translation of, 154, 175, 176;
Payne's, 155, and Burton's 155;
stories from, 157-174
Arabic language, 23, 24
Arabic literature, decline of, 117, 118
its former position, 117;
its present state, 118
Arabic literature, translation of, vii.
Arabic story books, 151, 152, 184, 188, 192, 201, 210, 212, 216
Asmai (Al), the philologist, 60, 61, 62
Asmai (Al), supposed author of 'Antar,' 184
(Fezari (Al), Abul Mashar, Farghani (Al), Battani (Al),
Ali bin Yunis, Es-Zerkel, each indexed separately.)
Ayesha, third wife of Muhammad, 4, 38, 125, 126, 128, 137, 138
Az-zahra, mistress or wife of Abd-ar-Rahman III. of Spain, 12
Badger (Rev. G.P.), on Muhammad, 120
Badger (Rev. G.P.), about the Koran, 140
Badr, battle of, 127
Baghdad, founding of, 12;
description of 96;
fall and conquest of, 12
Baital Pachesi, 183
Baladori (Al), the translator and chronicler, 91
Barmekides, The, 12, 98-101
Bashshar bin Burd, the poet, 77, 78
Battani (Al), or Albategnius, the astronomer, 25, 43
Bekri (Al), the traveller and geographer, 49, 50, 52
Benjamin's (Mr.) 'Persia and the Persians,' 6
Beruni (Al), the traveller and geographer, 49, 50, 51
Biblos, or Book, or Bible, 139;
the work of many men, 139;
its increased interest after visiting Egypt, Palestine and Syria, 139;
can be read in various ways, 139;
its description by 'Il Secolo,' 140
as a scientific work of little value, 140
Birgeli, or Birkeli, the dogmatist and grammarian, 112
Bohtori (Al), the poet, 76, 77, 84
Boulak (Cairo) text of the 'Nights,' 156, 180
Breslau (Tunis) text of the 'Nights', 156, 174, 175, 180
Buddha compared with Jesus, 142, 143
Buddhism and Christianity, 142
Buddhist birth stories, or Jataka tales, 184
Bujeir bin Zoheir, the poet, 32
Bukhari (Al), the traditionist, 38, 39
Burton (Richard F.), description of his 'Nights' translation in
Sixteen volumes, 155, 156, 175-180
Busiri (Al)'s poem of the Mantle, 21, note
Calcutta texts of the 'Nights' 156, 175, 180
(Ibn Mukla, Ibn Al Bawwab, Yakut Al Mausili, Ibn Hilal,
Hamdallah, Mir Ah, Muhammad Hussain Tabrizi, each indexed separately)
Casiri, the bibliographer, 11
Caussin de Perceval, 26, 78, 155
Chavis and Cazotte, the translators, 155, 178, 179
Chinese language, 23
Christianity and Buddhism, 142
Clerk (Mrs. Godfrey), 216
Clouston, W.A., 29, 184
Companions of the Prophet, 39
Compilers of encyclopaedias and biographies, 55
(Nadim (An), Ibn Khallikan, Abul Khair, Haji Khalfa, each indexed
Contents of this work, ix.-xiv.
Cordova, 7, 8, 9, 11
Cromwell and the Bible, 140
Democracy of Islam, 149
Dow, a translator, 154
Duwali (Ad), the grammarian, 45, 46
Early Ideas,' a group of Hindoo stories, 151,181
Egypt, the Fatimites established in, 13;
invasion of, by Jawhar, 13;
conquest of, by Saladin, 13;
other dynasties in, 13;
conquest of, by Selim the First, 14;
incorporated with Turkey, 14
English newspapers, 186
English tales and stories, 186
Erpenius, a translator, 26, 97
Essays and discourses by Hariri, 87, 88
Es-Zerkel, or Arzachel, the astronomer, 44, 45
Fadhl bin Yahya, the Barmekide, 99, 100
Farabi (Al), or Alfarabius, the philosopher, 24, 25, 65, 66, 67
Farazdak, the poet, 77, 78
Farghani (Al), or Alfraganius, the astronomer, 24, 25, 42
Farra (Al), the grammarian, 48
Fatimites, The, 13
Fezari (Al), the astronomer, 41
Firuzabadi, the lexicographer, 110
Fluegel, the translator, 115, 193, 202, 210
France, Invasion of, by the Arabs, 7
Freytag, the translator, 27
Gabriel bin Georgios, the physician, 73, 74
Galland, his translation of the fables of Lokman and Bidpay, 26;
and of the 'Nights,' 154, 175, 176;
his biography, by Burton, 154;
his texts, 180
Gauttier, a translator, 155
Gayangos (Pascual de), the translator 10, 11, 22, 117
Geographers and travellers, 49
(Muslim Homeir, Mervezi (Al), Ibn Foslan, Ibn Khordabeh, Jeihani,
Istakhri (Al), Ibn Haukul, Beruni (Al), Bekri (Al), Idrisi,
Ibn Batuta, each indexed separately.)
Georgios bin Bakhtyeshun, the physician, 72, 73, 98
Ghazali (Al), the mystic and philosopher, 65, 70
God of the Arabs, 148
God of the Jews, 148
Golius, 41, 42
Grammarians, The, 45
(Duwali (Ad), Khalil (Al), Sibawaih, Jahiz (Al), Kisai (Al), Mubarrad
(Al), Thalab, Farra (Al), Akhfash (Al), Shaibani (As), Anbari (Al),
each indexed separately.)
Granada, Kingdom of, established, 9;
fall of, 9, 112;
taken by Ferdinand and Isabella,9;
Alhambra at, 11, 112
Gunadhya, the Hindoo author, 182, 183
Habicht, a translator, 155, 175
Hajaj bin Yusuf bin Matta, the translator, 90, 98
Haji Khalfa, the bibliographer, 55, 113, 115
Hakim II. of Spain, his education, 103;
his diwan of poems, 103;
his library; 104;
and catalogue of books, 104, 105
Halaku Khan, 13, 107
Hamdallah, the penman, 113
Hamilton (Terrick), the translator of 'Antar,' 184, 185
Hanbal, the imam, 37
Hanifa, the imam, 37
Hanyfs, The, 133
Harath, the poet, 29
Hariri (Al), the author of the 'Makamat', 87, 88
Harun-ar-Rashid, the Khalif, 12, 19, 73, 96-100
Hasan bin Ali, the Fatimite, 5
Hasan bin Sehl, the translator, 91
Hasan bin Thabit, the poet, 34
Hazar Afsaneh, or Thousand Stories, 152
Hazim (Al), the traditionist, 38
Herbelot (D'), the translator and Orientalist, 97
Hertlemah, the hostile poetess, 31
Hijrah, or Emigration, 25
Historians, The, 52
(Ibn Ishak, Ibn Hisham, Wackidi (Al), Muhammad bin Saad,
Madaini (Al), Tabari, Masudi, Ibn Athir, Baha-uddin,
Imad-uddin, Kamal-uddin, Abul Feda, Ibn Khaldun,
Ibn Hajar, Ibn Kesir, Taki-uddin of Fez, Ibn Arabshaw,
Makrisi (Al), Sayuti, Makkari (Al), each indexed
'Hitopodesa,' a Hindoo story-book, 151, 153, 183
Hobeira, the hostile poet, 31
Honein, Battle of, 130
Honein bin Ishak, the physician and translator, 75, 91
Hughes's 'Dictionary of Islam,' 120, 149
Hussain bin Ali, the Fatimite, 5
Ibn Al Arabi, the mystic, 95
Ibn Al Athir, the historian, 54, 55
Ibn Al Bawwab, the penman, 113, 114
Ibn Al Mukaffa, the translator and author, 89, 91-94, 152
Ibn Arabshaw, the historian, 110
Ibn As Sikkit, the editor of poems, 76
Ibn Bajah (Avempace), the philosopher, 24, 25, 65, 70
Ibn Batlan, the physician and philosopher, 70
Ibn Batuta, the geographer and traveller, 108, 109
Ibn Demash, the editor of poems, 76
Ibn Duraid, the philologist and writer on natural history, 64
Ibn Foslan, the geographer and traveller, 49
Ibn Hajar, the historian and biographer, 109
Ibn Haukul, the geographer and traveller, 49, 50
Ibn Hilal, the penman, 113
Ibn Hisham, the historian, 52
Ibn Ishak, the historian, 52
Ibn Kamal Pasha, a writer on law, 112
Ibn Kesir, the historian, 110
Ibn Khaldun, the historian, 108, 109
Ibn Khallikan, the biographer, 55-57, 116, 216;
eighteen anecdotes from his work, 217-228
Ibn Khordabeh, the geographer, 49,50
Ibn Kutaiba, the philologist and author, 63
Ibn Malik, the grammarian, 108
Ibn Mukla, the penman, 113,114
Ibn Rashid (Averroes), the philosopher, 24, 25, 65, 71
Ibn Sina (Avicenna), the physician, 24, 25, 65, 67, 69
Ibn-ul-Marzaban, the editor of poems, 76
Ibn Wahshiyah, the translator, 91
Ibn Yunis, the historian, 44
Ibrahim of Aleppo, a writer on law, 112
Idrisi, the geographer, 49, 50, 52
'Ilam en nas,' a story-book, 216
Imams, The Shiah, 37
Imams, The Sunni, 37, 38
Isa bin Musa, the physician, 75
Islam, The dogmas, precepts, and ordinances of, 148, 149
Istakhri (Al), the geographer and traveller, 49, 50
Jaafar as Sadik, the alchemist, 41
Jaafar bin Yahya, the Barmekide, 99-101
Jaber (Al), or Geber, the astronomer, 24, 25, 41
Jaber bin Hayam, the alchemist, 40, 41
Jahiz (Al), the philologist, 47, 58, 59
Jami's 'Beharistan,' 188
Jarir, the poet, 77, 78, 80
Jawini's 'Negaristan,' 188
Jeihani, the geographer, 49, 51
Jerusalem, the early Kiblah, 133;
changed to Mecca, 136
Jesus compared with Buddha, 142;
no details about his early career, 143
Jones (Sir William), 29
Jurisconsults, The seven, 36
(Obaid Allah, Orwa, Kasim, Said, Sulaiman, Abu Bakr,
Kaabab, The, at Mecca, 3, 122, 144
Kab-bin-Zoheir, the poet, 31-33
Kali (Al), the philologist and author, 87, 103
Kama (Al), the poet, 30, 77
'Kama Sutra' of Vatsyayana, 182
Karitha, the hostile poetess, 31
Kasidas, _i.e._, Arab idyls or elegies, 28, 29
Kasim bin Asbagh, the traditionist, 38
Kasim (Al) bin Ma'an, the philologist and author, 59
'Katha Sarit Sagara,' The, 153, 154, 181-184;
translated by Professor Tawney, 181;
compared with the 'Arabian Nights', 181;
divided into 124 chapters, containing 330 stories, 182;
their nature, 181-183
Khafaji, the poet, 117
Khalef al Ahmer, the author, 58
Khalid bin Barmek, 99
Khalid bin Walid, the general, 4, 129, 137, 147
Khalid bin Yazid, the alchemist, 40
Khahl (Al), the grammarian, 46, 47
'Khalilah wa Dimnah,' a story-book, 151-153
Kiblah, The, changed to Mecca, 136
Kindi (Al), or Alchendius, the philosopher, 24, 25, 65, 66
Kisai (Al), the grammarian, 47, 225
Koraish, tribe of, 2, 124, 125, 128, 134
Koran, The 3, 23, 24, 138;
quotation from the 26th chapter, 31;
as defined by the Muslims, 138;
its division into chapters, 138;
how it represents Muhammad, 138;
not arranged until after his death, 138;
as compared with our Bible, 132;
as described by Mr. Badger, 140, 141;
as a literary composition, 142
Kosta bin Luka, the philosopher and physician, 65, 75, 91
Kuenen (Dr. A.), on the religion of Israel, 146, note
Kutrub, the grammarian and philologist, 60
Labid, the poet, 29;
his conversion, 34
Lane, a translator of the 'Nights', 155
Lokman, the sage, 26,27
Madaini (Al), the historian, 53
Mahdi (Al), the Khalif, 19, 96, 98, 99
Majridi (Al), the philosopher, 65, 106
'Makamat Hariri', 87, 88
Makin (Al), the chronicler, 97
Makkari (Al), the historian, 10, 22, 96, 117
Makrisi (Al), the historian and geographer, 110
Malik, the imam, 37
Mamun (Al), the Khalif, 12, 19, 74, 90, 96, 101
Mansur (Al), the Khalif, 12, 19, 73, 90, 96, 98, 99
Marwan II., the Khalif, 7, 19
Maseweib, the physician and translator, 75, 91
Masudi (Al), the historian, 53, 54
Mervezi (Al), the geographer, 49
'Merzuban-namah,' The, 192
extracts from it, 193-201
Mir Ali, the penman, 113
Moawia I, the Khalif, 5, 19, 33
Mofaddhal (Al), the compiler and editor of poems, 76, 85, 86
Montague (E. Wortley), his 'Nights', 177, 178
Moors, The, in Spain, 9;
their expulsion, 11, 112
Morell, a translator, 154
Moses compared with Muhammad, 142;
as a liberator and organizer, 143, 145;
why he stayed in the desert, 145;
his legislation there, 146;
to him the Jews owe their nationality, 146
Mothanna, the general, 4, 147
'Mua'llakat,' The, or suspended poems, 24, 28, 30
Mubarrad (Al), the grammarian, 48
Muhammad, the Apostle, 3, 18;
his birth, 120;
details of his life, 120-132;
his death, 132;
as a poet, 24, 30;
as a reformer, preacher and apostle at Mecca, 119, 120, 132;
as a military leader, 147;
his military expeditions, 127-131, 147;
his failure at Mecca, 134;
his success at Madinah, 135, 136;
his power there as Pope-King, 135;
his virtues at Mecca, his vices at Madinah, 136;
his wives, 122, 125, 127, 128, 129, 137;
his concubines, 128, 129, 137;
reasons for his numerous marriages, 137;
compared with Moses, 142;
to him the Arabs owe their nationality, 146;
always insisted on faith and prayer, 149;
his parting address at Mina, 150;
his immediate successors, 4, 5, 18, 25;
his companions and their successors, 39;
his converts, 123, 124, 126, 129
Muhammad Al-Amin, the philologist and lawyer, 116
Muhammad bin Habib, the editor of poems, 76
Muhammad bin Saad, the historian, 53
Muhammad Hussain Tabrizi, the penman, 113
Muir (Sir William), 120;
his life of Muhammad, 120, 137;
his annals of the early Khalifate, 147
Munkah, the Sanscrit translator, 91
Musa, the general, 7
Musa bin Khalid, the translator, 91
Muslim Homeir, the geographer, 49
Musset (Alfred de), the poet, 233;
the verses on his tomb in Paris, 234
Mustaa'sim (Al) Billah, the Khalif, 12, 20, 107
Mustatraf (Al), a story-book, 201;
extracts from it, 202-209
Muta, Battle at, 130
Mutanabbi (Al), the poet, 77, 84, 85
Nabiga, the poet, 30
Nadim (An), author of the 'Fihrist,' 55, 56, 84, 85
Nami (An), the poet, 77, 85
'Naphut-ul-Yaman,' a story-book, 188;
extracts from it, 188-192
Nasir-uddin-Tusy, the Persian, 107
Natural history, writers about, 58
(Khalef-al-Ahmer, Ahmad bin ud Dinveri, Jahiz (Al),
Ibn Duraid, Shaibani (As), each indexed separately.)
Newton and the Bible, 140
Nubakht, the translator, 98
Obaid Allah bin Jahsh, the Hanyf, 133
Ohud, Battle of, 127
Omaiyide Khalifs, Abdul-Malik and Walid I, patrons of literature and
Omaiyides, The, list of 19;
dynasty established, 5;
conquests of, 6;
fall of, 7
Omar, the Khalifah, 4, 19, 137, 147
Oriental Congress of 1889, v., vi.
Oriental lectures established, vi.
Oriental literature, study of, vi.
Oriental Translation Fund, Old, vi., vii.;
its revival, vi.;
new fund to be permanent, vii.;
some of its works, 54, 57, 88, 109, 115, 117;
list of works published by, Appendix, 235
Otbi (Al), the poet, 77, 80, 82
Othman, the Khalifah, 4, 19
Othman bin Huwairith, the Hanyf, 133
Othman bin Talha, the custodian of the Kaabah, 3, 129
Oweis Al Keremi, the mystic, 95
'Pancha Tantra,' 151, 153, 183
Passion Play, the Arab, 6
Payne (John), description of his 'Nights,' 155, 156, 175, 177, 180
Pelly (Sir Lewis), a translator, 6
Periods of Arab literature--first, 25;
of Arab history, 2
Persia, its severance from the Abbasides, 13
Persian Portraits, 151
Petis de la Croix, a translator, 154
Philologists, Arab 59
(Kasim bin Ma'an, Kutrub, Jahiz (Al), Shaibani (As),
Asmai (Al), Abu Obaida, Ansari (Al), Abu Othman,
Abul Aina, Ibn Kutaiba, Ibn Duraid, each indexed
Philology, Arab, 59
Philosophers, Arab, 65
(Khalid bin Yazid, Kindi (Al), Farabi (Al), Ibn Sina,
Ali bin Ridhwan, Ghazah (Al), Ibn Bajah, Ibn Rashid,
Kosta bin Luka, Thaleb bin Korra, Tavhidi (Al),
Majridi (Al), each indexed separately.)
Philosophy, Arab, 64
Physicians, Arab, 72
(Georgios bin Bakhtyeshun, Gabriel bin Georgios,
Isa bin Musa, Maseweih, Yahya bin Maseweih,
Honem bin Ishak, Kosta bin Luka, Razi, Ibn Batlan,
each indexed separately.)
Places of learning, 105
Pococke, a translator, 97
Poem of the Mantle, by Kab bin Zoheir, 31, 33
Poem of the Mantle, by Al Busiri, 32, note
Poetry before Muhammad's time, 25, 28
Poetry, Collectors and editors of Arab, 76
(Mofaddhal (Al), Shaibani (As), Abu Zaid bin A'us,
Ibn as Sikkit, Muhammad bin Habib, Abu Hatim as
Sejastani, Abu Othman al Mazini, Abu Tammam, Bohton (Al),
Ibn-ul-Marzaban, Ibn Demash, Zukkari, Abu Bakr As-Sauli,
Abul Faraj al-Ispahani, each indexed separately.)
Poets, Arab, 28, 30, 77
(Amriolkais, Antara, Labid, Tarafa, Amru, Harath, Zoheir,
Nabiga, Kama (Al), Aasha (Al), Akhtal (Al), Farazdak,
Jarir, Abul-Atahya, Bashshar bin Burd, Abu Nuwas, Abu
Tammam, Otbi (Al), Bohtori (Al), Mutanabbi (Al), Nami
(An), each indexed separately.)
Printing presses of Arabic to-day, 118
Prophets mentioned by Muhammad, 133
Purgstall (Von Hammer), author and translator, 96, 155
Quaritch (Bernard), his catalogue, vii.
Radhi (Al) Billah, the Khalif, 20, 101, 102
Razi, or Rhazes, the physician, 24, 25, 75
Redhouse (J.W.), the translator, 32
Rehatsek (E.), the translator, viii., 30, 53
Reiske, a translator, 97
Remarks, Introductory, v.
Renan, extracts from, 144, 145
Rodiger, a translator, 27
Ruckert, a translator, 89
Sacey de (Baron Silvestre), 26, 89, 108
Sad bin Malik, the general, 4
Sa'di's 'Gulistan,' 188
Sayuti (Jalal-uddin), the Egyptian author, 111
Scott (Jonathan), a translator, 155, 177, 178
Sehl bin Nubakht, 90
Shafai (Al), the imam, 37
Shaibani (Abu Amr as), the grammarian, philologist, writer on natural
history and editor of poems, 49, 60, 76
Shiahs, Description of the, 5
Sibawaih, the grammarian, 46, 47
'Sihr-ul-oyoon,' a book on the eye, 210
extracts from it, 210-212
'Siraj-ul Muluk,' an interesting work, 212;
extracts from it, 212-216
Society of the Brethren of Purity, 105
Sofyan at Thauri, an imaam, 38
Somadeva, '(Bhatta); an Indian author, 182, 183
Soudanese, The, 148
Spain, Omaiyide rulers in, 21;
other rulers, 8;
the Almoravides, 9;
the Almohades, 9
Spanish Omaiyide Khalifs, 8, 21;
the two greatest, Abd-ar-Rahman III and Hakim II., 102
Sprengor (Dr. A.), a translator, 54
Stories from Ibn Khallikan, 217-228
Stories from the 'Arabian Nights.' 157-174
Stories from the 'Merzuban-namah.' 193-201
Stories from the 'Mustatraf.' 202-209
Stories from the 'Naphut-ul-Yaman.' 188-192
Stories from the 'Sihr-ul-oyoon.' 210-212
Stories from the 'Siraj-ul-Muluk.' 212-216
Stories from various sources, 228-233
Sulaiman, the lawgiver, 112-116
Sunnis, Description of the, 5
Syria and Palestine, 14;
conquest of, by the Fatimites, 14;
by the Seljuks, 14;
by Saladin, 15;
by Selim I., 15
Tabari, the historian, 53
Taki-uddin of Fez, the historian, 110
Tarafa, the poet, 29
Tarik, the general, 7
Tavhidi (Al), the philosopher, 65, 106
Tawney (C.H.), the translator, 181
Testaments, our Old and New, 133, 139
Thalab, the grammarian, 48
Thalab bin Korra, the philosopher, 65
Theophilus of Edessa, the translator, 98
'Thousand and one Nights.' 152, 154-156, 174-176
Torrens, a translator of the 'Nights.' 155
Tradition, The six Fathers of, 38
(Al-Bukhari, Muslim, At-Tir-midi, Abu Dawud, An-Nasai, Ibn Majah.)
Traditionists, Early, 38
Traditionists, Minor, 38
Translations, how carried on, 90, 91, 98
Translators, 89, 90
(Ibn-AlMukaifa, Abd-Allah bin Hilal, Sehl bin Nubakht, Musa
bin Khalid, Yusuf bin Khalid, Hassan bin Sehl, Baladori
(Al), Munkah, the Indian, Ibn Washiyab, Honein bin Ishak,
Maseweih and his son Yahya, Kosta bin Luka, Theophilus
of Edessa, each indexed separately.)
Travellers, _see_ 'Geographers'
Trebutien, a translator, 155
Ulema, Establishment of the, 116
Vatsyayana, the Hindoo author of the 'Kama Sutra,' 182
Voltaire and the Bible, 140
'Vrihat Katha,' or Great Tale, 182, 183
Wackidi (Al), the historian, 53
Walid I., the sixth Omaiyide Khalif, 7, 19
Warakah, the Hanyf, 123, 132
Weil (Dr.), the translator, 53, 155
White (Dr. Joseph), 177
World, End of the, prophesied, 111
Wustenfeld (Dr.), the editor and author, 52, 76
Yahya bin Khalid, the Barmekide, 99, 100
Yahya bin Maseweih, the physician and translator, 74, 75, 91,98
Yakut, the penman, 113, 114
Yazid I., the second Omaiyide Khalif, 5, 6, 19
Yusuf bin Khalid, the translator, 91
Zaid, the inquirer, 132
Zibary, the hostile poet, 31
Zinzerling, a translator, 155
Zobeida, the wife of Harun-ar-Rashid, 97, 168
Zoheir, the poet, 29
Zotenberg (H.), of the Bibliotheque Nationale, Paris, 176, 177, 179
Zukkari, the editor of poems, 76
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